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.”

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