2007 Catering Study: And the survey says ...

The desire to operate foodservice in a more environmentally friendly manner isn’t necessarily a driving force in catering.

Buffets are up and sit-downs are down for many non-commercial catering operators, according to the FSD 2007 Catering Study. Learn what trends are driving catering, and what challenges non-commercial caterers faced in the last year.

The environment is certainly one of the hottest topics in non-commercial foodservice these days. But the desire to operate foodservice in a more environmentally friendly manner isn’t necessarily a driving force in catering, at least according to FoodService Director’s 2007 Catering Study.

Although anecdotal evidence suggests that most foodservice departments engage in recycling efforts with regard to catering, most operators have yet to make the switch to biodegradable or compostable serviceware, the study revealed. Only 33% of operators surveyed say they offer customers the option of using such serviceware. The largest percentage of operators making this option available are found in colleges and universities (38%) and the smallest percentage in B&I (24%).

However, most of those that do offer environmentally friendly tableware make a solid effort to encourage customers to make the choice. According to the survey, 71% of operators who offer such serviceware do not pass the cost onto the customers, even though it  is more expensive to purchase.

Interestingly, the sector most likely to be most environmentally friendly is also most likely to charge more. Thirty-eight percent of university caterers say they pass the cost on to clients.

Of course, not offering biodegradable serviceware does not necessarily mean that a caterer isn’t environmentally conscious. For example, at Harvard University, Crimson Catering tries to reduce its environmental footprint by minimizing the use of disposables.

“We encourage the use of china wherever possible,” says Madeline Meehan, director of Crimson Catering. “In addition, all of our delivery vehicles  run on bio-diesel fuel. We have light sensors in all of our catering areas so we don’t waste electricity, and food salvage is sent to a local pig farmer.”

But other operators cite reasons why environmental efforts are lagging. At Eastman Chemical Inc., Kingston, Tenn., the company makes a major effort to recycle such items as plastic bottles, cooking grease, cardboard boxes and aerosol cans. But Jean Petke, senior employee services coordinator, notes that her contractors aren’t as active.

Reasons noted by Petke’s contractors include lack of space and a lack of interest from customers. Greg Saunders, catering director for Troutdale Catering, which handles events at the Eastman Lodge, notes, “This is our most challenging area. A large part of our business is using disposable products, but we have had success in washing and reusing some of the more durable ones. Space is a huge concern for us as far as recycling.”

More From FoodService Director

Managing Your Business
restaurant uniforms illustration

The standard foodservice uniform has undergone a makeover. Whether to make the job more appealing or extend personality to the guest, restaurants are allowing workers to express their individuality through what they wear, from T-shirts to bandannas to hipster-style aprons. Even in more conservative operations, staff can show their personality through uniforms, now offered in a wide range of colors, fits and styles. In choosing uniforms, operators also are weighing the message their workers’ wear sends, be it one of culinary skill and expertise, or a sense of camaraderie with the community...

Ideas and Innovation
rooster illustration

Sustainability is such a priority for Santa Rosa Junior College’s culinary arts program that produce often doesn’t even hit the cooler before becoming a meal. Students quickly transform the bounty of fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy and more, harvested from the college’s own farm, into restaurant-quality dishes at the Culinary Cafe and Bakery. They learn the basics of agriculture, practice pivoting a menu based on seasonality, and compost as they cook.

It’s little wonder the program recently placed first in the CAFE/Kendall College Green Awards: This Northern California community...

Managing Your Business
alumni worker

It’s a sure sign that a school is doing something right when its students want to come back and work as adults. From the standpoint of the foodservice director, though, there is plenty to gain from retaining homegrown talent—call it the ultimate return on investment. In the wake of back-to-school season, two dining programs with a robust alumni contingent share their thoughts on hiring former customers.

Local expertise

At Georgia Southern University, about one-third of Eagle Dining Services’ 107 full-time employees are alumni. “They way we do things on our campus may be very...

Managing Your Business
business ladder climbing illustration

Recruiting talent is only half the battle for Mike Folino, associate director of nutrition services at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio. Once he’s attracted good employees, providing clear opportunities for advancement can help retain them—but knowing when to bring up the topic in conversation can be tricky.

Prior to hiring

Folino likes to touch on advancement during the initial interview process, but the extent to which he does so changes case by case. “I have had interviews where we knew right away that we needed to discuss our structure and...

FSD Resources