The world of ‘catering’ is now a very far cry from simple sandwiches for office staff, or an occasional Directors lunch.
There are literally hundreds of thousands of catering companies throughout the UK. Some are small businesses providing mobile catering solutions, perhaps for small public events like fetes or open days. Others are multi million pound companies who specialise in catering for the country’s most high profile parties and occasions.
And catering isn’t just about food any more either. In fact plenty of today’s catering companies also provide drink, decoration and even entertainment as part of their product. More party planners than simple caterers, companies like Create or “rhubarb”, also have fingers in the retail pie too – running restaurants and bars as well as event catering arms.
Catering consultants are a fairly new phenomenon. Catering consultants (such as Merrit-Harrison and Turpin Smale) are people or organisations whose sole job is to assist other businesses in their own food and beverage arena. In the upcoming London 2012 Olympics for example there will be a huge demand for good catering consultants. They will be tasked with helping businesses to perfect the art of entertaining their corporate clients for the Olympic period. Many catering consultants are already busy helping hotels and restaurants create, improve or simply enhance their product in the run up to the Games. Let’s face it – it will be one of the busiest event and hospitality times the UK has even seen, so there is a great deal of money to be made getting it right!
As the catering industry has grown and diversified, so too has the scope of catering creativity these companies offer. Event catering, for example, is no longer just about dinner for 200 guests. Now a good catering company may offer you the choice of stalls service (where guests can help themselves to freshly cooked and served food); wok stations – a superbly theatrical way to serve hot fresh food en masse; sushi and sashimi bars; or even roving oyster shuckers. All are new ways of serving fresh, fabulous and of course visually impressive food quickly and efficiently.
The top catering companies employ Creative Managers and Designers whose sole job it is to ensure these ideas are always cutting edge and that the catering product continues to be unusual and effective. After all, as with any industry, it is those companies who evolve and develop their product effectively who do best in their market.
But of course catering doesn’t have to have the ‘wow factor’ either. Just good delicious food is a winning formula in some catering markets. Some companies for example specialise in creating (and delivering to your door) superb yet simple food, sourced and cooked brilliantly and aimed at reducing the time we spend in our kitchens. Classic fish pies and cottage pies perhaps, handmade chicken goujons for the kids, or a simple (cheat’s’ dinner party) cheesecake – all food that perhaps you might pre-order for a weekend away with friends perhaps, just to make a little less work yourself!
After all, that is what catering in all its forms is about – making a little less work for us, be it one less sandwich to make before our working day or one less dinner party to cater for, one less party for 1000 to organize, or one less headache on the corporate hospitality front.
Author Bio: Sara Allom writes about the growth of the catering industry and the rise of catering consultants in the build up to the 2012 Olympics. Its an exciting time to be a UK catering company.