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.

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