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Catering Mania

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The catering segment in India is mainly dominated by unorganised players, many of who run their business from the comfort of their homes and small establishments. But in recent years, the scenario has changed. A lot of organised operators comprising international catering companies and big restaurant chains have also started taking catering seriously. Catering is no more limited to weddings and birthday parties in the country. Moreover, the imposition of various kinds of taxes by the government is also resulting in the growth of the catering business.

According to Vineeta Tikekar, Vice President – Marketing and Communications, Sodexo India On-Site Services, “Our market is classified into two sections – the total food services market in India, and the target food services market in India. As per our estimates, close to 25 percent of our target market is controlled by organised players.”

According to Neha Manekia, Director, Silver Spoon Gourmet – a Mumbai – based catering company that specialises in gourmet European cuisine — there aren’t any recent figures, but the catering services industry in India has been consistently growing at the annual growth rate of 15-20 percent.

Deepti Dadlani, Brand Marketing and Communications Head, deGustibus Hospitality, which runs Moveable Feast — the catering division of the company — agrees. “It will be very difficult to comment on the overall market size of the organised catering segment of the country because I don’t think there is any real figure that is out yet,” she adds.

In the next five years, Sodexo India On-Site Services expects the organised food retailing segment to broaden its target market in food services with an approximate 15 percent growth rate. On the consumer front, increased mobility, exposure, aspirations and availability of a substantially wider range and products would also contribute to this market shift. In addition, increased regulation and stress on quality and safety would lead to a preference for organised players.

With the changing needs and lifestyles of consumers, global as well as Indian food consumption patterns are rapidly evolving. According to Tikekar, a huge production base, increasing organised food retailing and growing export opportunities for favourable regulatory environment are all leading to the growth of the sector. Organisations and consumers have become more conscious about what they serve and eat.

Manekia reasons, “People celebrate a lot of occasions at home now, since due to increased taxes, dining and drinking outside has become all the more expensive, which is also fuelling the growth of catering.”

The corporate catering market is highly fragmented in India, which includes a handful of international and organised players.

Moveable Feast organises a number of functions outside Mumbai. “We cater to clients who are are looking for high-quality food and are ready to pay a slight premium on it,” reveals Dadlani. “We were the catering company for the Filmfare Awards and the IPL. We do catering for a lot of gymkhanas, high net worth individuals and a lot of middle class functions too. We do corporate events on a daily basis,” she adds.

“Being a niche gourmet company, our food is enjoyed by a wide variety of clients. The biggest companies in Mumbai from Mahindra to Ceat, Godrej to Rolls Royce are part of our esteemed client pool,” says Manekia of Silver Spoon Gourmet. The company also caters to home-based parties but specialises in gourmet European food only.

Sodexo, whose services extend nationwide, sees potential growth in the healthcare and education sectors, although these are at quite a nascent stage. As per their estimates, they expect substantial rise in the services provided to high-end hospitals, educational institutes, etc.

For every business to be successful, there are some golden rules to follow and there are some major dont’s that need to be kept in mind. Manekia suggests not to underestimate the time taken and the costs associated with setting up the food business. “It will always take double the money and time you ideally expect it to take,” she says.

Dadlani, on the other hand, feels that catering companies should always be transparent and never cheat.

The emersion of MNCs is leading to an increased focus on health and safety. These companies stress on stringent safety norms in their own day-to-day businesses and expect the same from their outsourced food partners as well.

It is quite clear that the catering scenario in India is only getting competitive, riding on various factors that is propelling its growth. And this spells good news for the end consumer who is going to get good quality hygienic food at a very well structured price. But it is yet to be seen, how this industry shapes itself in the coming future .

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