The recession has taken its toll on the restaurant industry, including brands that have grown their catering services by focusing on box lunches or party trays for business meetings. Recent research by foodservice consultants Technomic offers good news, with the revelation of an important and largely untapped growth opportunity — catering to consumers' at-home social occasions.
At $33.3 billion, the size of the consumer catering opportunity is almost double the size of the business-to-business off-premise catering market previously studied by Technomic.
"We were surprised to learn that the consumer catering opportunity is much larger than we originally expected," said Melissa Wilson, Technomic principal. "(Consumers) used to use restaurants as social venues, but now they're entertaining at home. And they've told us they plan to continue doing so because they're enjoying socializing with friends at each other's homes. In fact, 40 percent of consumers say they expect to entertain at home more often over the coming year."
The POP: Parties Off Premise study identifies numerous ways that limited- and full-service restaurants can respond to this fundamental shift in consumer behavior and see meaningful improvements in unit-level performance. Other key findings from the study include:
  • Consumers say they are just as likely to source food for these occasions from restaurants as food retailers.
  • In terms of sales, restaurants hold the largest share of the social catering opportunity, with slightly more than $23 billion, or 69 percent, market share, followed by caterers, supermarkets, warehouse clubs and other retailers. Among restaurants, full-service operators hold a larger share of the social catering market than limited-service restaurants.
  • While holidays and other special events prompt seasonal spikes in consumer catering purchases, broader shifts in consumer behavior point to a consistent year-round opportunity.
To learn more about the POP: Parties Off Premise study, including additional details about business-building implications contained in the report, please contact Melissa Wilson at (312) 876-0004 ext. 3707 or

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