CHICAGO — Consumer catering is a $33.3 billion market, almost double the size of business-to-business off-premise catering, making at home social occasions a significant growth opportunity for the catering business, according to market researchers at Technomic.

"We were surprised to learn that the consumer catering opportunity is much larger than we originally expected," said Melissa Wilson, Technomic principal. "This is where your customers are. They used to use restaurants as social venues, but now they’re entertaining at home. And they’ve told us they plan to continue doing so because they’re enjoying socializing with friends at each other’s homes. In fact, 40% of consumers say they expect to entertain at home more often over the coming year."

The study was entitled "POP: Parties Off Premise," and it found consumers say they are just as likely to source food for these occasions from restaurants as food retailers. Restaurants hold the largest share of the social catering opportunity in terms of sales with $23 billion, or 69% of the market. The market share is followed by caterers, supermarkets, warehouse clubs and other retailers. Of the restaurants, full-service operators have a larger share of the social catering market than limited-service restaurants. Also, overall shifts in consumer behavior show a consistent year-round opportunity for the market.