Each year, we ask ICA member caterers across the US and around the globe a number of questions about their companies, clients, and events. The majority of ICA caterers (53%) said that their biggest area of growth was corporate events in 2016, so we got in touch with a few industry leaders to see what new trends and insights they have about 2017 corporate events.
© PhotographyByAlexander.com for Purple Onion Catering Co.
Why are corporate events growing?
First things first: let's take a look at what's causing this growth in corporate catering. Two of the caterers we spoke with—Heidi Brice, director of catering at Puff 'n Stuff and Margot Jones, owner of Purple Onion Catering Co.—attributed the growing market to the improving economy.
Brice said that, with the strengthening of the economy, "Businesses are more comfortable spending money throughout the year." Jones similarly noted that, "Once the economy started to pick up, everyone seemed to have money again."
But the economy might not be the only factor in the growing corporate market. Amie Taylor, director of sales and catering at Butler's Pantry, said that the reshaping of the workforce as more baby boomers retire and millennials are employed plays a significant role. "I know we hate playing into this notion," Taylor clarified, but "millennials...do not have the mentality to stay at a job for 15 to 20 years like some of their older colleagues. Companies must create an attractive company culture to keep them engaged and happy."
Jones likewise said that this is why corporate clients often "spend money without a lot of questions of price." Companies are "looking for fun experiences that thrill their millennial employees."
Donut walls are still highly popular. Photo Sara Ketterer for Puff 'n Stuff
What do corporate clients want?
Corporate event planners, as Taylor said, "do attempt to please everyone." This means that clients want "many options that support dietary restrictions of vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free," said Brice. Jones said that her clients simply want food that is "fresh, healthy, and varied."
Brice also added that Puff ‘n Stuff sees a lot of corporate event planners that "really get a kick out of highlighting local fare, especially when entertaining out-of-town groups."
The playfulness of a phyllo "cigar" always livens up the party scene. Photo courtesy Puff 'n Stuff
As for décor, Brice said that "simple décor, clean lines" were popular. Taylor noted that "creative and interactive food displays are key." It seems that balancing entertainment with professionalism is the task for many corporate caterers trying to "thrill" employees, while also maintaining a work environment.
It's fascinating to consider why corporate catering is growing for so many caterers as well as why certain culinary trends fit the new workforce. By understanding the motivations of corporate clients, caterers are able to better, well, cater to them.
Puff 'n Stuff Catering, Butler's Pantry and Purple Onion Catering Co. are proud members of the ICA. To learn more about the ICA, visit http://internationalcaterers.org/.
Registration is open for Catersource 2018! Want to learn more about corporate catering? Check out our growing Corporate Catering and QSR track here with more to come in the ensuing weeks ahead!