2006 Catering Study: Spreading the word

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

Ads add up: In B&I, catering growth is due to promotional efforts, say more than one-quarter of respondents in this segment. Bill Carroll, general manager for Sodexo at Marathon Oil in Houston, says catering accounts for more than 50% of revenue at the account and is growing due to Web and print advertising.

“Our new menu is live on-line,” he says, “and we go out to the community. I sit on the Houston Chamber of Commerce and market [the site] to the chamber, and run a full-page ad in a [local] wedding magazine and national bridal magazines.” Those ads, he says, target Houston-area brides who might be attending college in distant cities.

Colleges, meanwhile, most often cite a growing customer base and customer satisfaction as prompting growth in catering. “We cater 1,900 events per year,” says Dean Wright, director of dining services at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. “Our biggest [catering] event last year was the BYU Women’s Conference; we served 5,000 people for one meal. We also did a horticulturalists’ convention attended by 1,500 people. The busiest time of year is Homecoming [during which] we can do as many as 40 to 45 events a day.”

Reaching out: To grow their catering businesses, non-commercial operators continue to look beyond their physical and organizational boundaries, with good reason—only 30% have an exclusive on their organization’s catering opportunities. Of those FSD Catering Study respondents doing catering, 51% do catering on-premise only, while almost as many cater events both on- and off-premise.

“We have been making a real push for business off-campus,” says Karen Focarazzo, director of catering at Fresno (Calif.) State University. “We have exclusive rights to catering on campus, but we are assertively partnering with people and organizations connected to the campus, such as community groups or university donors, to bid for off-campus business.”

Keysor adds that at Maine Medical Center, external catering represents new revenue to the hospital, and her department does market catering services to external entities. But as a non-profit organization—like many in the non-commercial realm—she must keep a tight financial rein on the catering business. “Internal catering is an expense to the medical center,” she explains. “Nutrition Services does bill and cover department costs for services; however, the goal is not to create more expense for the hospital.”

Maximizing revenue: Many in non-commercial also need to be careful how they charge off-premise customers. About two-thirds of FSD study participants say they can and do charge off-premise customers more than on-premise customers. At Maine Medical, for example, “we have a separate catering book to give to external customers listing the price they would be charged,” Keysor says.

BYU Dining Services doesn’t have an exclusive, but captures between 80% and 85% of business, Wright notes, describing off-premise business as “very limited, usually for donors.”

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
baked bread

Instead of sourcing value-added product to reduce labor, the food and nutrition team at University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics in Madison outsources its baked goods to a local shop that hires only formerly incarcerated workers. The bakery was able to hire two new former inmates in order to keep up with the volume needs of the hospital. “We want to be really entrenched in the community, not just have a building that sits in the center of Madison,” says Amy Mihm, clinical nutrition specialist for the hospital.

Managing Your Business
food symbols allergens

Bellevue School District in King County, Wash., has reduced the instances of life-threatening allergic reactions by 94% since 2013. Wendy Weyer, business manager for nutrition services, says that success stems from direct communication with the district’s 20,000 students.

Q: What was the first thing you did to start reducing allergic reactions?

A: More than five years ago, we changed our menu signage to provide information to students on what the common allergens were on all the foods that were served at every station. We use symbols such as an egg or a wheat stalk for younger...

Ideas and Innovation
cold storage boxes

When working with a small footprint, the back of the house often gets squeezed in the interest of preserving precious seats. But as storage space contracts, these restaurant operators are getting resourceful with everything from shelves to ceiling height to inventory in ways that FSDs can apply, too.

“When we were first tasked with figuring out smaller footprints, when it came to interiors, it was like a bad riddle,” says Trinity Hall, SVP of development for Dallas-based Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, which shrunk its prototype from 2,200 square feet to 1,800. “Let’s make it smaller and...

Menu Development
induction cooking nuts

Thanks to prolific fast casuals such as Chipotle, guests have come to expect a certain level of customization in their dining options. For almost 50% of Generation Zers, customization is a deciding factor when purchasing food, according Technomic’s 2016 Generational Consumer Trend Report . Taking customization even further, operations are handing over even more control to customers with both build-your-own and cook-your-own stations.

Elder Hall’s My Kitchen station at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., offers a daily rotating ingredient bar with items such as stir-fry,...

FSD Resources