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.

Better early than late: On average, 30% of catering revenue comes from breakfast and 42% comes from lunch, with only 22% of business being for dinners. Another 6% comes from special events.

Predictably, B&I operators do 90% of their catering during the day, while universities are much more likely to cater dinners. Those respondents said 31% of their average catering revenue comes from this daypart.

For those earlier dayparts, drop-off service is more often requested than any type of sit-down meal. Survey respondents said that 66% of their breakfast business is drop-off, as is 57% of luncheon business. By contrast, only 31% of dinner business is drop-off.  

Anecdotally, operators are seeing a move away from sit-down and waitservice functions, with more requests coming for buffet-style meals and drop-off services such as boxed lunches.

“Our largest growth has been in delivery service on campus,” says Brenda Ryan-Newton, director of catering at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. “With marketing and our catering Web page giving more easy access to our customer base, we have seen a substantial increase in this business.”

Citing the budget mindfulness of many university clients, she adds, “We tend to cater more buffets than sit-down dinners. It appears that our university sponsored sit-down meals are used mainly for large fundraising purposes.”

Other operators concur.

“We have seen more of an increase in simple delivery catering, box meals, etc.,” says Jim McAdam, owner of James Michael’s Catering on the campus of Eastman Chemical. “Our biggest decline is in sit-down meals.”

Echoing McAdam’s comments was Opal Spears, manager for HoneyBaked Ham, another Eastman caterer. “We’ve seen an increase in delivery, boxed lunches and buffets,” she says. “When people meet, they eat.”

Pick it up: Todd Foutty, director of foodservice for MetroHealth System in Cleveland, also notes a rise in the desire for buffets, as well as for pick-up, rather than delivery, service. “Pick-up is gaining because hospital departments are being forced to reduce their catering costs,” Foutty says. “Taking out the delivery/labor component reduces the cost to the department and the facility as a whole.”
He adds that catering volume at MetroHealth is rising in general because of cost concerns. “Internal catering is far less costly than when departments order from an outside vendor,” he explains.

Tony Almeida, director of nutrition services at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, New Brunswick, N.J., agrees, adding that his prices encourage departments to upscale events.

“Our clients want to impress their guests with a high-end food presentation,” Almeida says. “We can do a high-end event for $30 a person, and still cost only half of what an outside caterer would charge.” Almeida also notes an increase in the demand for buffet service, but not necessarily for cost reasons.

“Our catering service has seen an increase in buffet dining because of the selections that can be offered, and the diversity of the guests,” he explains.

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Ideas and Innovation
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Communication is key, and [managers] are busy too. One tip I picked up from another director was to label my subject line with the header “action,” “information” or “response” followed by a brief description of the email contents. That way they can filter through their inboxes during their busy days to know which emails need their attention immediately and which they can save to read later.

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