Commercial and collective catering: what are the differences?

Commercial and collective catering: what are the differences?

Commercial and collective catering: what are the differences?

To talk about catering is to refer to a broad spectrum of types of service. In fact, this sector is made up of a multitude of activities that vary according to:

  • the place where food is distributed, 
  • the type of customers,
  • the type of manager of the activity.

In this article we’ll analyse the characteristics of the two main categories into which catering is classified, namely: commercial and collective catering.

Collective catering: what does it mean?

Commercial and collective catering: what are the differences?

Collective catering is a type of catering that is designed for a large number of people belonging to a group (e.g. students of the same school, employees of the same company, participants in the same event, etc.) who have an interest in using the same service.

So, collective catering deals with the preparation and delivery of meals on a large scale. Specifically, in the conventional system, food is cooked and distributed to consumers in real time and in the same place. On the other hand, in the deferred system, the main preparations are made in large production centres, such as the so-called centralised kitchens, while the cooking, distribution and service takes place in smaller kitchens located throughout the territory.

The difference between commercial and collective catering

What collective catering and commercial catering have in common is the fact that both involve the preparation and distribution of meals for customers, but the methods used to perform these activities differ in certain respects. In particular, the differences between commercial and collective catering concern:

  • • The type and number of customer;
  • The circumstances that cause people to use the service;
  • The type of managers;
  • The price;
  • Who pays for the service.

Catering

As indicated, collective catering is the process of offering meals to a large and varied number of clients belonging to the same group, who access this service out of pure necessity, i.e. the need to eat. Just think of the employees of a company who, during their lunch break, do not go home and decide to use the canteen service provided by the company. The relationship that is established between the canteen and the customer is repetitive over time, the service is almost non-existent, the menu is very often fixed, the prices are modest and the cost in most cases is not borne, or is only minimally borne, by those actually using the canteen service. Last but not least, those who run a catering business are typically medium to large-scale companies.

Commercial catering

Commercial catering is the type of catering that offers dishes that are produced and consumed in the same place. The number of customers that the establishment can serve depends on its size, but it’s generally smaller than a catering facility. Moreover, customers decide of their own free will to go to a restaurant, so the circumstance is occasional. For individuals it’s a moment of relaxation to share with friends or family.

The price of meals tends to be higher than in a canteen, as the dishes are more elaborate and the service in this case is present and attentive to the needs of those seated at the table. Contrary to the situation that pertains in collective catering, in commercial catering, those who use the service are the same individuals that pay for it, and the business are usually managed by a small number of individuals, as is the case with restaurants, pizzerias or family-run restaurants.

What are the main types of collective and commercial catering

Now that we have clarified what are the commonalities and the differences between collective catering and commercial catering, let’s look in detail at the different types of activity that each macro category involves.

The following come within the category of collective catering:

  • Corporate catering, found within medium to large-scale enterprises, involving the preparation of lunch or dinner to employees;
  • School catering, in establishments such as schools and universities with a canteen service;
  • Socio-medical catering, preparing meals in hospitals, clinics and old people’s homes;
  • Care catering, often organised with home delivery of meals for dependent persons
  • Community catering, taking place in barracks, religious institutions and prisons.

On the other hand, when we speak of commercial catering, we are referring to:

  • Traditional catering, also known as typical catering, is the form of catering we are probably all most familiar with, because it includes traditional restaurants of various kinds such as gourmet, ethnic, vegetarian and etc., eateries serving dishes of local culinary traditions, pizzerias and bistros that informally combine the characteristics of a cafeteria with those of a restaurant;
  • Agro-tourism catering, which is provided on farm, serving food made from the produce cultivated there;
  • Hotel catering, provided in accommodation facilities to complete the service offer for its clients, although in some cases it may be provided to non-clients;
  • Fast food catering, the market for which is constantly growing, includes businesses such as fast food outlets, snack bars, takeaways, etc., which are characterised by very fast service, standardised offerings and competitive prices;
  • Travel catering, the preparation of food in planes, trains and ships.

Professional equipment for collective and commercial catering: how to choose

As we have seen, two of the differences between collective and commercial catering are the way food is produced and distributed and the number of customers to be served.

In fact, a collective catering kitchen will be larger than that of a restaurant, as the number of meals to be provided for each service is much greater

Therefore, the need to optimise production spaces and times is even more important and it is essential to choose the best equipment, which helps to speed up the service while at the same time ensuring that the service is safe and performs well.

There are usually at least 5 areas in a professional kitchen, each of which has a specific function:

  • lthe storage of ingredients,
  • washing, 
  • cooking, 
  • food preservation,
  • preparation of dishes.

For this reason the equipment that is certainly essential in a collective or commercial catering kitchen is: 

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