2006 Catering Study: Spreading the word

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

Three years ago, catering customers at Marathon Oil often turned to outside caterers. Now, Carroll of Sodexo says, “probably about 98% order from us. We have at least two vans on the road delivering to other accounts—some are former Sodexho accounts where we’ve continued with catering.”

The foodservice team at Providence Memorial Hospital in El Paso, Texas, is also capturing upwards of 90% of in-organization catering business. But that doesn’t stop the team from pursuing off-premise customers. “We did quite a bit of catering with the Salvation Army during the hurricanes of 2005,” says Daniel Coté, executive area chef for Morrison Management Specialists. “We fed evacuees [about 3,000 to 4,000 meals]; last summer, we did over 10,000 meals for the Salvation Army. We also do catering for a synagogue in town, using their kitchen.”


Day parts, drop off help boost catering profits
Plus: Catering menus help showcase the talents of your culinary staff.

Just as non-commercial foodservice is highly segmented by day part, so is catering. Luncheons and lunch meetings comprise 39% of the catering revenue, followed by breakfast (28%), dinners and banquets (26%) and special events such as festivals and, say, campus parties (7%).

Catering at Pennsbury (Pa.) School District, for example, ranges from morning and afternoon coffee breaks, breakfasts and luncheons to afternoon meetings and some dinners, according to Steve Kline, foodservice director for Metz & Associates, which manages foodservice for the district. Catering revenue totals about $40,000 a year.

Standing up: The budget for catering is somewhat limited, but Kline says he’s trying to stay current with trends in order to expand his offerings. “We have gotten away from sit-down meals,” he explains. “Customers want to do more stand-up [events] and grazing, which gives us an opportunity to do different things.” That includes putting more meal production elements out in front of customers: fresh items, carving stations and even chefs, Kline notes.

In addition, he’s “dabbling in heavier hors d’oeuvres” and has developed programs for pizza and birthday parties.
B&I caterers do the most breakfast business (35% of revenue) while hospitals get the most from lunchtime business (48% of their catering revenue).

Colleges, meanwhile, lead in the dinner category: 36% of catering revenue. To grow that business, Dean Wright, director of dining services at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, finds it necessary to increase customer education of what his department offers.

More From FoodService Director

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.

Menu Development
pho bowl

Achieving authenticity can be tricky. Late last year, Oberlin College landed in the news when students protested the way dining services at the Ohio school was botching ethnic food, serving up inauthentic versions of Asian and Middle Eastern dishes. It’s a challenge other operators are confronting, too, often tapping staff and patrons for inspiration.

At 260-bed Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Scottish Rite, Executive Chef Bradley Czajka, himself of Polish-Ukrainian descent, started Global Stations as a way to recognize the diversity of cultures at the hospital. “We have such an...

FSD Resources