Breaking into Catering: New Restaurant Catering Technology Trends
If you’ve ever thought, “I can’t do catering. I have a restaurant, not a catering business!” then the team at Craver has a question for you…
Why not both?
The catering industry has gone through massive shifts since its inception thousands of years ago, and recently, a catering revitalization movement has been set into motion.
Now, the restaurant industry has been redefining the meaning of catering…
An upgraded version of catering that’s in line with technology trends...
A shift from “old-school” catering to technology-forward catering…
And we’re only getting started.
Catering technology is growing in popularity, empowering restaurants to hop on the catering train while exercising their newfound love for technology-powered restaurant solutions.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Allow us to take you back to the beginning, way before catering technology – or any technology – even existed.
A Brief History of Catering
Like most things in the world, the origins of catering are thought to date back to the ancient civilizations of Egypt and Greece.
In Ancient Egypt, for example, banquets were often held to mark important events. Sharing specially-made dishes and extravagant menus was a staple for any occasion, from religious celebrations and marriages to births, deaths, and rites of passage.
Feasting was a key part of Ancient Greek culture, too. High-ranked members of society would gather at banquets called Symposia to discuss philosophy and politics, drink wine, eat…and judge the hosts on their hosting and catering abilities.
From its not-so-humble beginnings in ancient civilizations – whether in the form of celebratory feasts or brag-worthy banquets – catering has been around for thousands of years. And it only grew in popularity from there.
The Rise of Catering in the United States
Catering in the United States dates back to 18th-century Philadelphia.
The most well-documented catering event dates to 1778, an event for the recently resigned British General Sir William Howe. The farewell event was catered by Robert Bogle, a young Black man from Philadelphia who worked as a waiter and private event caterer in exchange for his freedom from slavery.
Bogle is credited as “having virtually created the business of catering,” inspiring other Black entrepreneurs to continue growing and developing the catering and food service industry in Philly for the next 150 years.
Catering continued to rise in popularity across the country, with restaurants adopting catering services to complement their dine-in businesses in the mid-1800s. The word “caterer” also became commonly used language in the industry at this time, reflecting an upcoming boom in catering services throughout the 1930s.
When World War II broke out, American households relied on ration stamps and coupons to feed their families. While restaurants were subject to the same ration regulations and supply chain shortages, their catering options still offered respite for families trying to save ration points and enjoy a small slice of normalcy.
As events, parties, and nights out became more mainstream in the 60s and 70s, so, too, did catering. Former President Richard Nixon, America’s “best-entertained” President, hosted 40 state dinners from 1969 to 1974. Serving everything from Peking duck to lobster en Bellevue, Nixon was no stranger to the catering industry’s range.
Now, in 2023, catering is still a popular service in the restaurant and food service industry, with over 87,000 catering businesses across the United States alone.
But where does catering go from here?
If you ask the team at Craver… we think it’s going to exciting new places.
Recent Trends in Catering
For the past two years, the restaurant industry has been in “recovery mode,” recouping lost time and money from the effects of the pandemic. However, things seem to be changing for the better.
A recent forecast from Technavio estimates the global catering services market to grow by USD 103.28 billion over the next 4 years… and we think that has a lot to do with return-to-work models and new catering technology.
More employees back in the office means more opportunities for in-office events, many of which tend to be catered. Nation’s Restaurant News says that means it’s “prime time” for catering businesses to get back in the game.
But, with catering businesses increasing in popularity, it can be difficult to stand out in what is becoming a more saturated market. That’s where catering technology comes into play.
In the past, catering technology was limited. It focused mostly on “simple” technology like booking software or payment systems… things that were helpful to run a smooth catering business, but not anything super groundbreaking or exciting.
New Catering Technology, New Catering Solutions
Over the past year or so, catering technology has made big waves in the restaurant industry. We’re seeing new, exciting, technology-based solutions that the catering industry has been waiting for.
Online Ordering Capabilities
Despite the world’s slow return to in-person life, the convenience of online ordering is here to stay. Businesses have been upgrading their catering technology, giving catering customers easy access to online ordering… like with Craver’s catering feature! Catering customers can order for pick-up or delivery through our zero-commission DoorDash Delivery integration, making the catering process faster and easier than before thanks to new technology.
Interactivity and Personalization
Unique catering experiences have always stood out… but now it’s more important than ever. Offering interactive, highly personalized options through catering technology is one way to make your business stand out while offering the tailored experience your catering customers see as non-negotiable. Allowing catering customers to place their own orders (through a Craver app, for example) and customize meal ingredients with your catering technology helps you stand out from the crowd while making your catering customers feel seen.
Optimization With Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Speed and order accuracy have always been important for catering customers. Now, with catering technology powered by AI, it’s easier than ever to maintain high operational standards. AI can help optimize different aspects of your catering business, from streamlining delivery routes and offering estimated delivery times to making sure you never run out of ingredients for a catering customer’s order. Leveraging the power of AI catering technology means your catering business’s operations run smoothly and errors are kept at bay.
Catering is typically a very hands-on business. People need to be on the ball at all times, handling things from bookings and staffing needs to inventory management and equipment servicing. With new online catering technology and self-serve software, catering businesses can take this type of “busy work” off their plates, freeing up time to focus on what automation could never replace: a solid catering customer experience.
When you start leaning on catering technology to run parts of your business, one of the greatest opportunities for growth lies in the data. Once you and your catering customers start using your new catering technology, you can learn more about their behaviors and preferences than you could have before. Leveraging information about your catering customers helps your business make strategic, data-informed decisions that keep your customer a top priority at all times.
Catering has been an integral part of the restaurant and food service industry for thousands of years, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down.
But, with catering technology and AI-powered solutions on the rise, the catering industry is about to undergo some massive transformations…
And at Craver, we’re excited to see catering technology reinvent the industry as we know it.