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Pharma Catering Trends All Limited-Service Restaurants Should Know

A major post-pandemic opportunity lies in business dining, particularly catering, where corporate orders are driving significant catering services growth. According to Dinova’s proprietary corporate cardholder data, the percentage of large business/catering transactions (over $250) is now 7% greater than in 2019. When it comes to catering spend, one industry stands out among the others: pharmaceuticals.

Complimentary meals have long been a business relationship-building tradition. This is especially true in pharmaceutical sales, where food provides access to busy, otherwise hard-to-reach healthcare customers. The opportunity is so significant that many limited-service restaurants near medical facilities have adopted special catering menus and programs for pharmaceutical sales. Here’s why others will want to consider targeting this segment.

Data shows growth potential for restaurants catering to pharmaceutical customers

While much of the recent business catering boom is driven by companies returning to the office and incentivizing employees with food, the pharma industry has always used catering more heavily. A closer look at the data reveals several promising trends.

  • More of pharma’s business dining spend is on catering. Before the pandemic, 37% of pharma business spend was on catering (transactions over $250), 10 percentage points higher on average than other verticals.
  • Pharma catering spend is more resilient. While overall pharma business dining spend dipped in 2020, like every other industry, it recovered more quickly, reaching pre-2019 levels by 2022 and exceeding them in 2023. Throughout the pandemic, professionals in the pharma industry purchased catering at higher rates than most other industries.
  • Catering’s share of pharma business dining has increased. Today, 42% of pharma dining spend is catering, 5 points higher than before the pandemic.
  • Pharmaceutical catering is poised to increase even more. Medical science advancements are anticipated to fuel expansion within the pharma sector, with S&P Global forecasting robust revenue growth through 2027. That means more sales calls, bigger business dining budgets, and more catering.

A Look at Pharma Catering Trends by Market

In almost all major markets, catering makes up at least a third of the pharmaceutical business’ dining spending. Here’s where the major markets stand.

Breakdown of catering transactions in the pharmaceutical sector by market. Data focuses on Limited-Service Restaurants (LSRs), specifically catering transactions/large orders exceeding $250.

Highest Share of Pharma Catering Spend as of 2023

  • Catering is half of all pharma business dining orders in Atlanta and San Francisco.
  • Others in the top 5 include Houston (42%), Los Angeles (40%), and Chicago (39%).

Most Recovered Since 2020

  • Catering’s share of pharmaceutical business dining spend has recovered to at least 80% of pre-pandemic levels in almost all major markets.
  • In Houston, pharma’s business dining spend on catering has exceeded 2020 levels; in San Francisco, it has returned to 2019 spend levels.
  • Two markets, Chicago (98) and Seattle (93) are approaching pre-pandemic pharma catering spend levels.

Get more catering trends, tips, and insights in the 2024 State of Business Dining Report—including exclusive tips on appealing to pharma catering decision-makers.


State of Business Dining Report

Download the free Spring 2024 State of Business Dining Report for more exclusive insights and tips from Dinova and Technomic.