Take a moment to consider the beauty of gaining new business catering customers. At first glance, these busy office professionals may look no different from your average delivery customer. But their consumer habits tell a different story. Forty-one percent of these customers order catering at least once a week and spend big—typically $283 an order. For context, that’s more than 15 times the average delivery order.
If you want your share of the market, it’s crucial that you know what catering customers really want—and use this knowledge to strengthen your business strategy, from creating a moneymaking menu to serving the right dayparts. To lend a hand, we moderated a panel discussion on this very topic at CaterUp!. Our panel of high-value catering customers got more questions than they could answer during the timed Q&A session. So we’re responding to all unanswered questions in a four-part follow-up. This is Part 2 of the series, on what catering customers order.
Here are our customer panelists:
- Zack Schnyder, Events Coordinator
- Megan Price, Manager of Global Accounts
- Christina Barbaro, U.S. Events Manager
- Tim Mariakakis, Account Executive
1. Do you order breakfast or lunch more frequently?
- Zack Schnyder: Lunch.
- Megan Price: Breakfast.
- Christina Barbaro: Definitely more lunch.
- Tim Mariakakis: Lunch, by far.
2. What types of food do you most frequently order for catering?
- Zack Schnyder: I usually order hot buffet bars, something different from the standard sandwich box lunch.
- Megan Price: DIY food bars are great, like for building tacos, salads, and grain bowls.
- Christina Barbaro: In the corporate space, the easiest way to get the job done is to order sandwiches and salads for catered events. That being said, I would love for someone to come up with a new offer in this category!
- Tim Mariakakis: Hot lunch combos. For instance, a combo of appetizers, entrées, desserts, and beverages.
3. Beyond sandwiches and salads, what are your favorite menu items for catering?
- Zack Schnyder: Hot food bars.
- Megan Price: Grain bowls!
- Christina Barbaro: Build-your-own food bars for salads, tacos, fajitas, pasta, and so on. I like customizable menu offers of popular dishes that people love.
- Tim Mariakakis: Hot trays of food.
4. What does a “healthy catering option” look like to you and what percentage of your guests want healthy choices?
- Zack Schnyder: I like places that offer alternatives to highly processed, high-sugar foods.
- Megan Price: Most guests want healthy options. Our company is based in the Bay Area, where you find a culture that values health and being thin. I generally stay away from processed foods and carbs: sandwiches, pizza, and pasta. Instead, I opt for family style offerings that allow people to choose the components of their meals. Also, I gravitate toward menus with lots of options for vegetable-based sides and salads.
- Christina Barbaro: I estimate that around 40 percent of our meetings require healthy catering options. What I’ve noticed is that most of these requests come from high-level execs. When looking for healthy options, I seek out all-natural, low-carb dishes packed with protein.
- Tim Mariakakis: My customers aren’t too picky. Those who are picky are happy to have a salad, which most caterers can provide.
5. Do you prefer simple bundled packages to make ordering quick—or highly flexible packages that can be customized for dietary requests?
- Zack Schnyder: It depends. Sometimes it’s easier to order a simple bundled package, even though it’s way less customizable.
- Megan Price: I’d like to have both options.
- Christina Barbaro: I prefer highly flexible packages.
- Tim Mariakakis: Highly flexible packages.
6. Do you prefer online ordering or personalized customer service with a catering manager?
- Zack Schnyder: Online—10,000 percent.
- Megan Price: Online.
- Christina Barbaro: Online ordering—as long as I have the option to customize items and make special requests.
- Tim Mariakakis: Personalized service.
Key findings about our customers:
- Our customers have lunch catered more frequently than breakfast, so there are more growth opportunities in the lunch daypart.
- Food bars, hot lunch combos, and sandwich box lunches are popular with our customers. Try to make room in your catering menu for these offerings.
- Customers want healthy catering options, meaning low-carb, no-sugar, unprocessed foods.
- They love online ordering, so make sure you’re meeting your customers’ needs.
Grab a bigger piece of the catering market. Learn how ezCater can help.