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The earliest account of a major functions being catered in the United States is a 1778 ball in Philadelphia catered by Caesar Cranshell to celebrate the departure of British General William Howe. Catering business began to form around 1820, centering in Philadelphia. Catering being a respectable and profitable business, the early catering industry was disproportionately founded by African-Americans.
The industry began to professionalize under the reigns of Robert Bogle who is recognized as "the originator of catering." By 1840, a second generation of Philadelphia black caterers formed, who began to combine their catering businesses with restaurants they owned. Common usage of the word "caterer" came about in the 1880s at which point local directories began listing numerous caterers. White businessmen eventually moved into the industry and by the 1930s, the black businesses had virtually disappeared.
In the 1930s, the Soviet Union, creating more simple menus, began developing state public-catering establishments as part of its collectivation policies. A rationing system was implemented during World War II, and people became used to public catering. By the 1960s, home-made food was overtaken by eating in public-catering establishments.
A mobile caterer serves food directly from a vehicle, cart or truck which is designed for the purpose. Mobile catering is common at outdoor events (such as concerts), workplaces, and downtown business districts.
Catering at an event can range from just a drop-off of the meal to full-service catering.
Catering can also be done by providing a box lunch, which contains the contents of an individual lunch typically prepared by a caterer and dropped off to a location for a client’s dining needs. Box lunches are used primarily in the corporate arena for working lunches.
Merchant ships often carry Catering Officers - especially ferries, cruise liners and large cargo ships. In fact, the term "catering" was in use in the world of the merchant marine long before it became established as a land-bound business.
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