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

Managing Your Business
hands team

In November, students at University of Missouri in Columbia began leading protests against discrimination faced by people of color on campus—including some marches through the dining halls. Julaine Kiehn, director of the school’s campus dining services, said the 2015-16 school year was a tough one, but she was proud of MU’s students for being at the forefront of a national movement.

And not only did the protests launch important conversations with students, but also with staff. Kiehn heard the protests and thought that her student workers, at least, might not feel safe and welcome...

Ideas and Innovation

When it comes to sustainability, sometimes the smallest kitchen changes can make the biggest difference. When Chris Henning, senior assistant director of dining services for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, switched from standard latex gloves to nitrile gloves, he also set up a recycling program. Once recycled, the gloves are turned into playground equipment, bike racks and park benches.

Henning says the nitrile gloves have been a good fit for his department, both in terms of durability and cost. “Participating in the campus buying program reduces the cost, as [our]...

Ideas and Innovation
elderly old hands

A family’s request for at-home meal support for a patient at Lee Memorial in Fort Myers, Fla., led System Director of Food & Nutrition Services Larry Altier to uncover a gap in care. He saw that only 1% of patients had been coded (diagnosed and labeled for billing purposes) as malnourished, while more than 60% of all Lee Memorial patients are over 65 years or older, a population that experiences the issue at a higher rate.

His discovery helped more rigorously identify malnutrition, but it also strengthened Lee Memorial’s community connection. The hospital launched a delivery...

Ideas and Innovation
nutrition facts label

Despite operators’ attempts to communicate nutrition information to guests via cards and labels on the food line, many guests still feel they have no clue what’s in their food. University of Illinois food economist Brenna Ellison shares a few guesses as to why consumers ignore these signs following a recent study on their placement in dining halls.

Q: Who is most likely to read the cards?

A: Students who were already exhibiting more healthy behaviors. So those were the students who track their intake using an app or a food diary. After the first week, we found the rates of people...

FSD Resources