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.”

Pages

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
food allergy

When potential students come to campus, we match them with a student from our allergy support group for a tour of our dining facilities. The ambassador helps the potential student to understand how they navigated campus with their food allergy. This showcases what we do for allergies on campus, and is a highly successful way to make the students feel good about dining.

Menu Development
muse school produce

Kayla Webb, executive chef at Muse School, has transitioned the private K-12 day school in Calabasas, Calif., to an entirely vegan menu over a three-year period. Webb talks about her menuing, and how the school’s kitchen earned the title of “greenest restaurant in the world” from the Green Restaurant Association.

Q: How did you help parents get used to the idea of an all plant-based diet?

A: The first year, we didn’t announce it. We were just serving one plant-based meal a week, so it wasn’t that drastic. We do monthly Muse Talks where we invite different speakers to our school to...

Ideas and Innovation
lettuce dirt

Savor at McCormick Place developed the Green Thumb brand for menu items and products featuring its rooftop bounty; the latest is a pale ale made with the first crop of hops grown on the roof. Promoting that branding and the convention center’s green certification has brought in business from groups with a sustainability focus.

Ideas and Innovation
business pamphlet fair show

As we struggle to recruit and retain millennials, we had our current millennial employees invite friends who don’t work for our organization to a Q&A session where we find out why our organization is or isn’t appealing to them, and what they are looking for in an employer. I recommend doing this off-site in a casual environment so you can get honest and open feedback that could be useful for better marketing.

FSD Resources