Strong festive demand for catering services

Demand for catering services during the Chinese New Year period this year is strong, despite an almost 15 per cent increase in menu prices compared to last year.

Caterers The Business Times spoke to reported as many bookings this year as last year, with several saying they were seeing a higher number.

Shawn Cheong, director of online catering portal, said there was a "marked increase" of between 30 and 60 per cent in the number of bookings this year. Customers can place orders with more than 40 caterers through the website.

Mr Cheong reckoned a younger population preferring convenience probably explained the increased bookings.

"It's very difficult to cook if you have a big event with lots of people," he said. "Younger people prefer to cater over cooking."

Sales and marketing manager Soh ST of Kate's Catering said there has been a 10-15 per cent increase in bookings this year over the previous year.

But profit margins are expected to be leaner this year, Mr Soh said, because of rising food and manpower costs.

The cost of food has gone up by around 25 per cent, even though menu price hikes were less than 15 per cent, Mr Soh revealed.

Daniel Ang, president of the Association of Catering Professionals Singapore, said operation costs such as manpower have risen as a result of higher levies.

While prices have gone up, caterers say their services are still in great demand.

"Pricier menus account for a bigger proportion of the rise while mass market menus see a smaller increase,"'s Mr Cheong said.

Mr Ang, CEO of Elsie's Kitchen and Continental Delight, said around 10 per cent more customers were opting for a more expensive menu this year. Most of his customers are small and medium-sized enterprises which organise corporate celebrations.

"Companies are more willing to spend the few extra dollars for a higher-end menu," he said.

Catering supply during the Chinese New Year weekend is lower, as around half of Singapore's caterers are closed, he added. To capitalise on the higher demand on those days, caterers try to meet it with greater manpower and vehicles.

One caterer that operates during the Chinese New Year weekend is Neo Garden, of the Neo Group. It said that most of its orders come from households celebrating the festivities.

The caterer had a record 1,005 orders on the first day of Chinese New Year last year, and it expects bookings this year to top that.

"A few months prior to the peak period, we grew and expanded our sales, operations and logistic teams so that we are well prepared for the increasing demands ahead," said Neo Kah Kiat, founder and CEO of Neo Group.

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