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.

Million-dollar baby: But whether caterers recycle or not, their operations are big business for their institutions or companies—especially on college campuses, where respondents averaged nearly $1.1 million in catering revenue last year. The average for all respondents was $468,000, with B&I operators reporting $561,000, hospitals averaging $239,000 and school districts only $88,000.

And it’s growing. Sixty percent of respondents said their revenue increased in 2007, led by colleges (77%) and B&I (71%). Fifty-seven percent of hospitals reported an increase in revenue, as did 44% of school districts.

Most operators (80%) attributed the growth to a higher number of catered events. Among the other causes cited were increased customer satisfaction (66%), increase in customer base (40%), menu changes (32%), and marketing and promotions (28%).

Going off-site: This growth comes in the face of continuing competition, since only 40% of respondents said they have exclusive rights to catering. Universities are most likely (66%) to have a catering monopoly, while B&I operators (10%) are least likely.

Universities are also most likely (63%) to  cater to both on- and off-premise customers, while B&I operators (27%) least likely.

Off-premise catering can be more lucrative for operators, because they can—and often do—charge more for off-premise events. Sixty-two percent of respondents said they charge more for off-premise, with universities (67%) and hospitals (64%) most likely to. Only one-third of B&I respondents said they have a two-tiered pricing structure.

That being said, catering is not necessarily a profit center, according to the survey. Only 44% of respondents said they operate catering at a profit, while 15% said it is a break-even proposition and 41% said catering operates at a loss or is subsidized. Colleges (67%) and B&I (57%) most frequently run catering as a profit center, while hospitals (58%) and school districts (42%) either subsidize catering or operate it at a loss.

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