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Attendees take away a basket of catering tips

Catering offers a big opportunity for fast-casual and quick-service restaurants, but the effort to exploit it is often an afterthought.

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Whether on-premise or off, catering can be a lucrative extension of your brand. But just as with the in-restaurant dining arena, the economic downturn has changed the rules of the game. Corporate events and high-ticket expense account dining have dried up. Weddings and other social events are smaller in size and budget. Fancy and formal are out; casual, creative and flexible are in. Caterers' new marching order: Do more with less—a lot less.

Foodservice catering is gathering strength and rebounding, and the forecast looks bright through 2012. Signs of recovery began in 2010, due to aggressive expansion into the catering space by limited-service establishments, the return of business event-driven spending and a healthier consumer outlook.

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