Mealfit's "History of Catering"

Mealfit's "History of Catering"

We're pretty proud of the job we do catering events. People tell us exactly what they want, and we deliver it for them and then some. 

But all of this event catering got us thinking: what exactly is catering? When did it start? How long have people been asking other people to bring food to give to a bunch of other people?

Catering is pretty much exactly that: an external group providing food and drink to serve at social events. And it's been going on a long time. There have been catering events documented as far back as the fourth millennium BC. Catering was around in ancient Egpyt, ancient Greece, through the middle ages, and all the way through the Enlightenment.

In this country, catering is about as old as the United States itself. The first documented catering service in the US was born in Philadelphia in 1778. Ironically, the first catering event in this country was for William Howe, the leader of the British forces in North America, as he resigned his post. He was pretty lousy at his job, but thankfully, the caterer, a Philadelphian guy named Caesar Cranshell, wasn't. The first American catering businesses started to spring up in Philadelphia over the next 40 years, and voila, the US catering industry was born. 

The Continental Congress would have been a lot less volatile if everyone had had a Chicken and Rice bowl.

The Continental Congress would have been a lot less cranky if everyone had had a Chicken and Rice bowl.


The modern catering industry, though, really picked up after World War II. During the war, many companies were contracted by the government to produce food for the soldiers across the various different fronts. Over 16 million Americans served in World War II, which meant that these companies had to produce an incredible amount of food to accommodate the needs of the soldiers. 

Catering companies relied on food from victory gardens to prepare food to send to the soldiers.

        Catering companies relied on food from victory gardens to
        prepare food to send to the soldiers.    


So when the war ended in 1945, and their contracts with the government ended, these companies had to find something to do. They now knew they could produce a massive amount of food very quickly, and because of a drastic increase in the American middle class around that time, a convenient solution presented itself: catering. Now, instead of only serving the super-rich, they could provide affordable catering solutions to a much wider range of customers. 

Now, thanks to advancements in food production and preservation, the internet, and improved transportation, independent catering is an 8.3 billion dollar industry. At Mealfit privileged to get to be a part of its history, and look forward to turning as many ideas into realities as we can. 


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  • Thomas Cox
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