2009 Catering Survey: Catering's new reality

The economic picture may be bleak, but creative on-site catering teams are finding a silver lining amid the gloom using new marketing plans and refurbished menus.

Across the board

Manask & Associates, a Burbank, Calif.,-based hospitality industry consulting firm specializing in cultural institutions, reports “major cuts” in the catering needs of its various clients across the United States and Canada.

“They’ve all seen, in the last 12 to 15 months, a drop in their business,” says President and CEO Art Manask. “That includes both social and corporate catering. We’ve seen anything from a 20% to a 40% drop in catering.

“What caterers are doing to respond to this is exactly the same thing you’re seeing in the restaurant industry: they’re re-engineering their menus, pricing and portions,” Manask adds.

In addition to catering corporate dining, government sites, hotels, schools, colleges and other institutional dining venues, Manask clients include museums, zoos and aquariums, casinos and performing arts: the University of Central Missouri; the New York State Historical Association; Philadelphia Zoo; RAND Corp.; Paramount Pictures; and the Venetian Resort Hotel-Casino in Las Vegas.

“They’re repackaging to come up with prices that are more to the times,” Manask says.

That seems to be the winning formula for catering today, as institutional and corporate clients eschew holiday sit-down dinner parties for buffets and serving stations with lighter fare.

The box lunch option at Notre Dame has “increased substantially” because of its affordability, Wenzel says. Box lunches can be ordered with at least a two-hour notice. The Light Box Lunch is priced at $5.50 and includes any of a variety of sandwiches with fresh fruit. The regular Box Lunch at $6.50 includes a sandwich with three side choices and a pickle.

Box lunch sandwich choices include butcher block ham, honey turkey, roast beef, egg salad or chicken salad, served on a soft white baguette, beer barley club roll, chipotle club roll, homestyle wheat, sourdough or rye. They also include a choice of four cheeses: cheddar, Swiss, provolone or pepper jack.  Sides include fresh fruit salad, red bliss potato salad, broccoli salad, cookies, whole fresh fruit or chips. Beverages are an additional cost and start at $1 for bottled water.

More From FoodService Director

Menu Development
beau rivage resort blended burger

Stealth health is so 1998. When author Evelyn Tribole’s original book on sneaking healthy add-ons into meals was published nearly 20 years ago, there may have been a genuine nutrition need to fill. But as today’s diners are increasingly requesting more produce at the center of the plate, another need has taken the lead: a desire for creativity. Here’s how operators are openly blending meat with other ingredients—or eliminating animal products entirely—to take protein to another level.

In April, dining halls at Yale University in New Haven, Conn., began offering the Beyond Burger, a...

Ideas and Innovation
desserts plate

We’re knocking down a wall in our bar area, which will create a more inviting atmosphere and allow us to host a coffee and dessert bar in the space on off nights when the bar is closed.

Ideas and Innovation
soup sandwich

Aside from Black Friday shoppers, there may be no crowd of people more eager to get to their bounty than wedding guests headed for the passed appetizers. While they’re surely thrilled for the bride and groom, that feeling comes second to the thrill of landing that first shrimp skewer—especially after a long ceremony. Same goes for work-related cocktail parties. Caught up in an awkward conversation? Oh look, it’s the mini-grilled cheese guy!

This month, FoodService Director takes a deep dive into catering, from the latest and greatest in menus to starting a new program at your...

Ideas and Innovation
shrimp lemon

In an interview with Bon Appetit magazine, Victor Clay, a line cook at Nobu Dallas in Texas, reveals his two simple tricks to prep an average of 15 to 20 shrimp per minute.

First, use kitchen shears to split the back of the shrimp. Then, before removing the vein, run the shrimp under cold water, which will loosen the vein. This cuts down on cleaning time, and prevents cooks from having to soak and rinse the shrimp afterward.

FSD Resources