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State of the Industry, Part 4

Corporate catering takes another turn

Editor's note: Over the next few days, enjoy an 8-part series on disruptions that may affect your business in 2018 and beyond. They are:

Part 1: Natural Disasters and Disaster Relief

Part 2: Ownership & Planning for the Next Generation

Part 3: Millennial Weddings

Part 4: Corporate Catering

Part 5: Staffing Woes

Part 6: Sustainability & Food Waste Concerns

Part 7: Commodity vs Expertise

Part 8: Food Trends for 2018

Check back often for the next installment!


Corporate catering takes yet another turn

“Restaurant and catering delivery is one of the fastest growing segments of the business,” said Thad Smith, Sterno Products, who displayed and discussed new items for ease in delivery at the Leading Caterers of America summit in November 2017. He’s right. As we noted in our January 2017 State of the Industry feature, “casual and fast casual brands are making business catering a top priority in 2017.” And these companies are looking past general 9-to-5 type business delivery and into schools, senior living facilities, and hospitals who need to outsource on-going foodservice needs, noted Sarah Schmidt at Companies able to provide fresh and healthful food quickly and at a reasonable price are winning the race over on-site prep.

And then there are weddings, as referenced by our Lyft driver, in Part 3.

Beyond Chipotle, upstart fast casual Crisp & Green (as just one example) has a campaign, “Say Yes to the Dressing” that capitalizes on healthful ingredients, weddings, and an online “Crisp Concierge” saying, “Torn about what to eat on your wedding day? We’ll make it easier to say I do. Feel great with healthy, made from scratch, clean salads and grain bowls that will fuel you from the aisle to the dance floor.” And for orders under $150? There’s an app for that.

As consumers turn toward fast casual, grab and go, drive through, and easy meal prep kits for daily sustenance, it becomes second nature to also turn to these outlets for more important events. The food has been tried and tested, the costs are transparent, so why not? Well, we all know why—but many consumers do not.

Sensing a lucrative revenue stream, new competitors flow into the arena daily. But there’s a caveat for those just entering the drop off delivery race.

“People think it’s so easy [to cater] and it’s not,” said Louis Maskin, Senior Strategist, The Culinary Edge, a food and restaurant consulting firm, referring to restaurant owners. “Catering is about making the person who ordered it look good.” With restaurants struggling to find that sweet spot of delivering cuisine usually not meant to travel further than BOH to FOH, finding the best packaging and delivery options have become a very important and necessary aspect for the learning curve. “A lot of companies fail without the right tools,” said Maskin.

The set up process—the inclusion of paper goods, plasticware, and serving utensils—can also be a drain on the bottom line when done incorrectly. “There are so many decisions to make,” says Michael Rosman of the Corporate Caterer. “A lot of people drink spring water directly from the bottle. When a customer orders 50 spring waters, do you need to give them 50 cups? With sandwiches and tossed salad, should customers get one plate per person? Or two? A plate and a bowl? What if they order sandwiches for 20 people but salad for only 10? How many napkins per person should you include? Be careful not to appear stingy, but don’t give away too much either.” These are the kinds of questions many new to drop off delivery don’t even think to ask.

Anticipate disruption: The journey of a beautifully cooked meal from the kitchen, out the door, and into the workplace or (even) wedding has many steps, beyond making sure it is served at the proper temperature. It’s important to do ones’ homework and assess the myriad options for packaging and delivery. Of course, the tradeshow floor at Catersource in February of this year is the ideal place to view, evaluate, and purchase the newest products available. Also, scrutinize your delivery staff. Rosman says, “Your delivery staff is most often the face of your operation. A responsible, polite representative, who makes a customer feel that their delivery is the most important of the day, will help forge relationships that lead to repeat business.”

And finally, product branding: it has become a huge part of the equation, a way to extend your reach. “Restaurant groups want to capitalize on the catering trend,” said Maskin, “but how do you translate your brand and experience outside of your brick and mortar?” 


Part 5 of our State of the Industry feature resumes tomorrow, January 11

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Kathleen Stoehr

Kathleen Stoehr is the Director of Community & Content Strategy for Informa Connect | Catersource and Special Events magazines, including all digital content for both websites and e-newsletter products. She also vets, hires, guides and coordinates all live education at Catersource Conference & Tradeshow, Art of Catering Food, Leading Caterers of America Executive Summit, and bridge content at The Special Event.