Operators predict continued catering boom

Return-to-office is increasing demand for business catering as employers use meal plans to draw workers in-person, according to a survey from ezCater.

Dive Brief:

  • A vast majority (97%) of restaurant operators surveyed by ezCater said they expect year-over-year growth in catering, the catering platform said in a report emailed to Restaurant Dive.
  • About three in four operators said they expect 20% or higher growth in catering business this year. Many of the operators that expect such growth are planning to expand services, enlarge or repurpose existing space or add human resources to accommodate demand.
  • The return-to-office trend is fueling the expansion of restaurant catering, especially as employers use food as a perk to help with retention and increase in-office attendance.

Dive Insight:

Offering food through an employer-provided meal program can help a restaurant reach new customers. About 47% of people who had a restaurant meal through an employer ended up ordering from the restaurant later, ezCater found. 

Order volumes are likely to grow, as 82% of customers expect to order the same amount or more food for work this year. Weekly ordering frequency is already up, with 39% of businesses that order catering ordering weekly this year, up from 32% in 2023. 

“The food for work opportunity is much bigger than just business catering. While organizations continue to feed their meetings and celebrations, they are also increasingly using restaurant food to feed their people on a regular basis,” said ezCater CMO David Meiselman. About 88% of surveyed workplace experience leaders said that food has helped bring more workers into the office.

To accommodate the increased demand for catering, ezCater suggests operators build menus that can accommodate both individual and tray catering, as well as offer variable sizes for trays and bundles and a combination of premium and budget options. 

“The size and scope of food for work orders can vary widely across organizations and industries, depending on the workplace, group, and occasion,” the ezCater report said. “A single company may need to feed 300 employees in a warehouse for $9 per person and 10 executives meeting at the corporate office for $25 per person. The key is to have the flexibility to meet these different needs.”

EzCater surveyed 600 people who regularly order food for their workplaces as well as 630 restaurant operators, 1,005 employees and 600 workplace experience leaders. The company also used its own proprietary data from millions of transactions across more than 100,000 restaurants and caterers to complete its report.

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