The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with Western culture and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (November 2014)
History of catering
The earliest account of major services being catered in the United States was an event for William Howe of Philadelphia in 1778. The event served local foods that were a hit with the attendees, who eventually popularized catering as a career. The official industry began to be recognized around the 1820’s, with the caterers being disproportionately African-American. The catering business began to form around 1820, centered in Philadelphia.
The industry began to professionalize under the reigns of Robert Bogle who is recognized as "the originator of catering." Catering was originally done by servants of wealthy elites. Butlers and house slaves, which were often black, were in a good position to become caterers. Essentially, caterers in the 1860s were "public butlers" as they organized and executed the food aspect of a social gathering. A public butler was a butler working for several households. Bogle took on the role of public butler and took advantage of the food service market in the hospitality field. Caterers like Bogle were involved with events likely to be catered today, such as weddings and funerals. Bogle also is credited with creating the Guild of Caterers and helping train other black caterers. This is important because catering provided not only jobs to black people but also opportunities to connect with elite members of Philadelphia society. Over time, the clientele of caterers became the middle class, who could not afford lavish gatherings and increasing competition from white caterers led to a decline in black catering businesses.
Evolution of Catering
By the 1840s many restaurant owners began to combine catering services with their shops. Second generation Caterers grew the industry on the East coast, becoming more widespread.  Common usage of the word "caterer" came about in the 1880s at which point local directories began to use these term to describe the industry. White businessmen took over the industry by the 1900’s, with the Black Catering population disappearing.
In the 1930s, the Soviet Union, creating more simple menus, began developing state public catering establishments as part of its collectivization policies. A rationing system was implemented during World War II, and people became used to public catering. After the Second World War, many businessmen embraced catering as an alternative way of staying in business after the war. By the 1960s, the home-made food was overtaken by eating in public catering establishments.
By the 2000s, personal chef services started gaining popularity, with more women entering the workforce. People between 15 and 24 years of age spent as little as 11–17 minutes daily on food preparation and clean-up activities in 2006-2016, according to figures revealed by the American Time Use Survey conducted by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. There are many types of catering, including Event catering, Wedding Catering and Corporate Catering.
An event caterer serves food at indoor and outdoor events, including corporate and workplace events and parties at home and venues.
A mobile caterer serves food directly from a vehicle, cart or truck which is designed for the purpose. Mobile catering is common at outdoor events such as concerts, workplaces, and downtown business districts. Mobile catering services require less maintenance costs when compared with other catering services. Mobile caterers may also be known as food trucks in some areas.
Seat-back catering was a service offered by some charter airlines in the United Kingdom (e.g., Court Line, which introduced the idea in the early 1970s, and Dan-Air) that involved embedding two meals in a single seat-back tray. "One helping was intended for each leg of a charter flight, but Alan Murray, of Viking Aviation, had earlier revealed that 'with the ingenious use of a nail file or coin, one could open the inbound meal and have seconds'. The intention of participating airlines was to "save money, reduce congestion in the cabin and give punters the chance to decide when to eat their meal". By requiring less galley space on board, the planes could offer more passenger seats.
According to TravelUpdate's columnist, "The Flight Detective", "Salads and sandwiches were the usual staples," and "a small pellet of dry ice was put into the compartment for the return meal to try to keep it fresh." However, in addition to the fact that passengers on one leg were able to consume the food intended for other passengers on the following leg, there was a "food hygiene" problem, and the concept was discontinued by 1975.
A canapé caterer serves canapés at events. They have become a popular type of food at events, Christmas parties and weddings.
A canapé is a type of hors d'oeuvre, a small, prepared, and often decorative food, consisting of a small piece of bread or pastry. They should be easier to pick up and not be bigger than one or two bites. The bite-sized food is usually served before the starter or main course or alone with drinks at a drinks party.
A wedding caterer provides food for a wedding reception and party, traditionally called a wedding breakfast. A wedding caterer can be hired independently or can be part of a package designed by the venue. There are many different types of wedding caterers, each with their approach to food.
Merchant ships – especially ferries, cruise liners, and large cargo ships – often carry Catering Officers. In fact, the term "catering" was in use in the world of the merchant marine long before it became established as a land-bound business.
- Aircraft ground handling
- Airline meal
- Food truck
- Gastronorm, a European standard for food container sizes
- Online food ordering
- Chastain, Sue (March 5, 1987). "Philadelphia's Historic Feasts How Blacks Carved Out A Niche In Society Through Catering". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 1 November 2014.
- Walker, Juliet E. K. (2009). The history of black business in America: capitalism, race, entrepreneurship (2nd ed.). Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press. pp. 133–134. ISBN 0807832413. Retrieved 1 November 2014.
- "Blog: Robert Bogle and Philadelphia's Dynastic Black Caterers". Free Library of Philadelphia. Retrieved 2023-04-27.
- Atkins, Peter; Oddy, Derek J.; Amilien, Virginie (2012). The Rise of Obesity in Europe: A Twentieth Century Food History. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. pp. 35–36. ISBN 1409488330.
- "A Brief History of Catering All Over The World". BLOWOUT PHILIPPINES. 2016-11-26. Retrieved 2016-11-26.
- "Why Millennials Don't Know How to Cook". MarketWatch. Retrieved 29 May 2017.
- "On-Board". Dan Air Remembered. Photo of seat back catering.
- Calder, Simon (May 1, 1999). "Travel" Pioneering Airlines Set Standards that Today's Carriers Could Only Exceed". The Independent. UK.
- The Flight Detective (November 20, 2018). "HAVE YOU HEARD OF THE CONCEPT OF SEAT BACK CATERING ON FLIGHTS?". Travel Update: Boarding Area.