A Brief History of Catering

Catering is defined as the business of providing food and drink, typically at social events and in a professional capacity either on-site or at a remote site. The term was originally coined by the Merchant Marines, who were among the first to employ catering officers for their vessels. These catering officers were responsible for purchasing goods, preparing food, and serving the meals and beverages to the other people on board the vessels. They also had to perform other ship-related tasks.

However, the trade goes back much much further than that. Catering dates back in the 4th millennium BC in China. The culture of grand eating and drinking was also present in old Egypt at that time. Most of the services were provided by slaves. The ancients Greeks are credited with making catering a trade by offering free services at their inns and hostels which continued into the Roman Empire. At this time the intent was primarily to serve soldiers. In the middle ages catering centered around monasteries and the Christian pilgrimages in Europe. The trade spread during the reign of Charlemagne. By late middle ages, the new bourgeoisies and a monetary economy helped the popularity of catering to flourish. When the industry drew the attention of German legislators in the 14th and 15th century, food and beer regulations began to take form. But much of the industry was still primarily seen in feasts and celebrations for kings and other noblemen. After the French revolution in the 18th century and the lack of an aristocracy, catering guilds were forced to find new ways to sell their talents and the first French restaurants were started.

 

In America, the catering industry is still very young. Catering started booming after the war when companies who had previously made food supplies for World War II needed something to do. As people became wealthier and the economy grew, caterers found there was a demand for their services, which has previously been reserved for the very rich.

The modern improvement of transportation, technical innovations, population increase, and sudden rise in the trade of travel and tourism has given gastronomy today an ever increasing rise in popularity and a major factor in our current economy.

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