Catering has become big business in the U.S.
View Part One of our series on specialty bakeries here
Specialty bakeries derived 10 percent of their total sales from catering, a significantly higher percentage than wholesale bakeries (5 percent) and full-line bakeries (4 percent).
Specialty bakers surveyed in our report revealed a number of new business opportunities, including catering options. “We have begun working with a local farm-to-table company that produces a lunch box by supplying them with a rustic style bread option,” says one specialty baker in the Midwest. “The trial run has already increased our profits by 4 percent.”
Catering represents a $10 billion business in the United States and, according to new survey by the International Caterers Association, 80 percent of members surveyed reported their sales grew last year.
And more than 90 percent expect their business to increase in 2017. As the US economy improves, these are high times again for the catering industry, fueled by corporate events, weddings and social occasions.
St. Louis-based Butler’s Pantry, a second-generation business founded in 1966, provides innovative and creative catering services for corporate functions, social events, NFP galas and weddings of all sizes. Located in Lafayette Square, Palladium Saint Louis is Butler’s Pantry’s premier event venue.
Richard Nix. Jr., president of Butler’s Pantry, says that all sectors are growing and clients want unique products. Butler’s Pantry has experienced substantial growth of about 15 percent per year. “Cookies, brownies and pick-up pastries will not cut it anymore,” Nix says. “Clients want wow, pop-visual, especially with the end of the meal. Petite sweets continue to be a popular wedding request.”
When Bouchon Bakery evolved its business into catering, the biggest challenge involved having products “that are really great to offer that don’t compromise our quality and stay true to our brand. It’s about being really good at what we’re really good at,” says Alessandra Altieri Lopez, who oversees the brand’s operations as director of Bouchon Bakeries, in addition to leading the kitchen and retail teams nationwide. “For catering, we are not a one-stop shop. But we can do a beautiful sandwich spread or mini scones for a bridal shower or office party. Our catering business is doing really, really well.”

Image courtesy of Bouchon Bakery
In Yountville, California, a lot of catering business involves Napa Valley wine tours that serve gourmet bag lunches from Bouchon Bakery. “Chef Thomas Keller is a major influence in the Napa area.”
Consumers are starting to change the perception of the food they expect, and demand, at an office event, Altieri Lopez says. Some clients are now specifying Bouchon Bakery by name for their events. “Where we are, the majority of people are super into food and that’s great for us. People are really looking for high quality product.”
Nontraditional catering is another growth vehicle (literally) at Montclair Bread in Montclair, New Jersey. Several years ago, owner Rachel Crampsey expanded into the food truck business to complement retail bakery, so they could bring coffee and donuts to the local citizens wherever they might gather. Crampsey gained approval to purchase an all-electric vehicle that can hold trays of finished donuts and two coffee dispensers – perfect for indoor and outdoor parties and catered events.
Working with, she designed her own “eTuk,” which can travel 25 mph and go 50 miles on one charge. With the design wrap and custom fabrication, the total cost came in at under $30,000 delivered. “We always wondered, what can we do for Moms with their children on the playgrounds?” Crampsey says. “Now they can get a latte and a donut. We use it for catered parties. It really becomes a promotional tool. I want to compete with the ice cream trucks. I would wager my donuts are better.”
In the business world, fresh bakery can have a positive impact on many aspects of corporate America, according to a recent survey of 1,025 office workers in the United States conducted by ezCater. In a new report titled, “Food in the Workplace: Surveying the Impact of Food on Sales, Productivity, and Culture,” a majority of workers agree that food makes it easier to close deals, keep customers and prospects happy and improve meeting attendance.
Sizzling Platter, a Utah-based restaurant management company with nearly 400 restaurant units globally, recently launched its new catering and delivery service, Sizzling Catering. The new catering and delivery service menu features select items from Dunkin’ Donuts, including donuts, bagels, coffee, gourmet hot chocolate, breakfast sandwiches, lox, fruit trays and dozens of additional options.
With this initial rollout, Sizzling Catering is currently offered at three of the company’s Dunkin’ Donuts locations in Midvale, South Ogden and downtown Salt Lake City, Utah. “Our new service aims to meet the growing demands of businesses looking for ways to simplify their catering and office party needs with the world class product lines our brands have to offer,” says Ted Morton, chief executive officer of Sizzling Platter, about the future of catering.