2006 Catering Study: Spreading the word

Half say catering revenue grew in 2006, led by colleges (70% of them) and B&I (66%).

Catering can reap substantial rewards for non-commercial operators, especially those pursuing on- and off-premise customers for revenue.

Administrators at a certain large, state-run university in New England demand a lot from their campus dining department’s catering division: top-notch service, high-quality food, customizable menus and an experience befitting the reputation and distinction of their institution.

Oh yes—they also believe catering to be something you “get” just by placing a phone call at the drop of a hat; and they want the whole package at less than competitive pricing.

Sound familiar?

All of this adds up (or subtracts down) to a loss for dining services, says the director (obviously anonymous). Such is the life for many a non-commercial caterer: According to FSD’s 2006 Catering Business-Builder Study, 17% of non-commercial caterers are forced to operate catering at a loss, while another third say they break even—with the remainder, just under a majority, saying they’re allowed to run catering as a profit center.

A good year: For those doing catering in non-commercial facilities, 2006 was a good year. Half say revenue grew, led by colleges (70% of them) and B&I (66%). Why? For hospitals, it’s simple: more catering is being ordered by various departments in the organization.

“Catering is growing but not because we market our services,” says Mary Keysor, MS, RD, director of nutrition services at Maine Medical Center in Portland. “Our educational seminars, recognitions and evening events are increasing, and catering often supports those events.”

Catering at Maine Medical ranges from coffee carts to a party for 2,000, Keysor adds. “It’s not just lunch in the boardroom. Our executive chef sits with customers to tailor the event.”


More From FoodService Director

Menu Development
spilled coffee beans glasses

Following an initial test at the end of May, Starbucks announced that more than 500 of its stores will be pouring nitro coffee by the end of summer. Capitalizing on the cold-brew coffee trend—which reached $7.9 million in sales in 2015 on 115% growth from the previous year, according to researcher Mintel—select U.S. cafes will give up the counter space to serve the creamy, nitrogen-infused java made from the cold-brew base. But how did nitro become the hottest new thing in coffee?

Bringing the bar to coffeehouses

It was the chrome double tap, similar to a bar’s beer tap, and the...

Ideas and Innovation
star wars storm trooper

My favorite event—because I’m kind of dorky—is our “May the fourth be with you” (aka “Star Wars”) day on May 4. The whole dining team dresses up, and we offer things like Chewbaklava, Boba Fettuccine and BB-8 Buckeyes. We had a guest cry because they got to take a picture with Chewy.

Menu Development
recipe revamp chicken soup

As a continuous care retirement community, The Garlands of Barrington in Illinois provides daily foodservice to 270 independent living and skilled nursing care residents, with the majority of sodium restrictions coming from the latter, says Executive Chef Nicola Torres. Instead of cooking two versions of chicken noodle soup—a favorite offered at least twice a week—he reworked his recipe into a flavorful lower-sodium version that appeals to all. “Everybody eats soup, so I created a homemade stock that uses no salt at all, ramping up the flavor with fresh herbs and plenty of vegetables,...

Ideas and Innovation
tray number

We created lucky tray days to help create an experience surrounding our brand. The trays are numbered; we pick a number and the winner receives a free lunch. We’ve enlisted the help of one of our coaches, who calls out the random lucky winner, and it drums up a lot of excitement.

FSD Resources