Catering represents strong growth potential for restaurants

The off-premise catering market earned $52.3 billion in 2015, a 20 percent sales growth between 2012 and 2015. This, according to Technomic’s 2015 Catering Insights Program.

Technomic Principal Melissa Wilson delivered the data findings during the Catering Institute’s Catering Leadership Workshop, held March 9-10 in New Orleans. In a breakdown of the 20 percent growth, Wilson said the business-to-consumer catering segment brought in $32.7 billion in 2015, with quick-service restaurants carrying the most in sales followed by the full-service restaurant category.

The increase is a testament to recent trends that consumers are ordering more meals from restaurants for parties and other gatherings held outside the office or a restaurant’s four walls.

Meanwhile, the business-to-business segment has shown considerable and stronger growth than B2C, despite a sales total of $19.6 billion for 2015. This was again led by the quick-service restaurant segment, pulling in 32% of off-premise catering orders, while the full-service category pulled in 14 percent followed by fast casual at 12 percent of off-premise sales.

When compared to overall Top 500 restaurant sales, both social and business off-premise sales have grown 6 percent and 7 percent, respectively,  between 2012 and 2015. The percentages outpaced 3-year system-wide sales growth of 5.1 percent, 3.3 percent and 4 percent for the Top 500 chains in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

The rise in off-premise catering sales is good news for restaurant operators, who have placed increased focus on the space in recent years. This has been seen through the roll out of catering programs across all restaurant segments and investments being made in catering, takeout and delivery services.

“Catering is becoming a larger part of the restaurant industry because operators are starting to pay more attention to those customers who want their food outside of the 4 walls,” said Erin Childs, director of catering for Boston-based Boloco. “It gives restaurant operators an additional channel of revenue and also builds a brand awareness they may not have had otherwise.”

Catering and off-premise executives have an opportunity to capitalize on the growing sales trend by listening to what their customer needs are and directing their marketing and sales efforts to address those needs. For example, consumers who want healthier meals would likely order from restaurant brands that included low-calorie items as part of their menu selection.

“If catering directors are able to take care of their clients on this personal of a basis, it allows their clients to have confidence in who they order from and feel like they are being taken care of,” Childs said. “At the end of the day it’s about servicing our clients, exceeding their exceptions and providing them with exceptional food and service. This is how we will all see future sales growth.”

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