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.

Diversified efforts

Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, is also seeing some impact on its catering operations from the economic downturn, says Don King, assistant director of the Phillip R. Shriver Center for catering and retail sales. The former executive director of catering, King now oversees all catering and retail sales, which includes the food court, coffee shop, convenience store and restaurant. Miami’s catering business has two brands: Carillon Catering and Direct to You!, a delivery service.

“Our summer conferences suffered the biggest losses,” King says. “We’re currently about 9% off from last year.”

Yet, overall, foodservice operations saw positive year-end results for the fiscal year ending June 30. King says that’s due in part to his operation’s focus on diversification. Gains in programs like catering for fraternity and sorority houses and the surrounding community are helping insulate the business from the economic downturn.

“It would probably be a little worse if not for Direct to You! and our fraternity and sorority business,” King says. Direct to You! deliveries require a $75 minimum, although smaller orders can be picked up. Anyone using a university account to pay also receives a 10% discount. “Direct to You! sales have been up,” King says. “We’ve had more deliveries and drop-off catering. We’re seeing more box lunches.”

Popular deliveries include the “no frills” pasta buffet. Priced at $9.50 per plate—against the typical $12.95 options—the more affordable buffet includes penne with meat or garden marinara sauce, tossed salad with ranch or Catalina dressing, garlic bread sticks and cookies or brownies. Similarly priced at $9.95, the baked potato bar features a baked potato with choices of fillings: broccoli florets, diced tomatoes, Texas chili, cheese sauce, butter, sour cream, salsa and bacon bits. It too includes a salad and choice of dessert.

The box lunch menu is also becoming more popular. It includes a Seasonal Fruit Box at $10.50 featuring fresh-cut fruits, low-fat cottage cheese or fresh-made chicken or tuna salad, plus club crackers and a large apple bran muffin. All box lunches include a choice of beverage. The Create A Box offering, at a more frugal $8.95, starts with a choice of sandwich: smoked turkey and Swiss; ham and provolone; roast beef and cheddar; or hummus and muenster with roasted red pepper, served on asiago, multi-grain or white bread. Sides are seasonal fresh fruit, potato chips or pretzels and two Otis Spunkmeyer cookies.

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

The School District of Philadelphia and Baltimore City Public Schools are the latest districts in the Urban School Food Alliance to switch to compostable plates.

The move to the eco-friendlier products will save 19 million polystyrene products from landfills, according to a news release .

Schools often use polystyrene products due to their low cost. Polystyrene trays cost on average around 4 cents apiece, while compostable plates cost an average of 12 cents each. The Urban School Food Alliance’s collective buying power enabled them to create a compostable plate that costs...

Managing Your Business
allergies

Guy Procopio got a taste of the future when Michigan State University hosted a Boy Scout event in 2015. Out of 10,000 participants at the East Lansing, Mich., campus, Procopio, the director of dining services, received 1,400 requests to meet special dietary needs, including a wide spectrum of allergies, gluten intolerance or insensitivity, and other new or unusual hyper-specialized diets.

This dining trend isn’t letting up, at least in America: Food allergies in children increased approximately 50% from 1997 to 2011. They now affect one in 13 children in the United States,...

Industry News & Opinion

Students of Broward County Public Schools in Florida were treated to a special meal by celebrity chef Aria Kagan during lunch last week.

The chef and former contestant on “The Next Food Network Star” prepared her farm-fresh pesto panini in front of students at McNicol Middle School in Hollywood, Fla.

Her visit was part of the district’s Chefs Move to Broward initiative, through which a chef from nonprofit Wellness in the Schools visits district cafeterias each month to prepare a healthy meal. The chef then teaches cafeteria staff how to make the dish so it can be...

Managing Your Business
woman alone in kitchen

In a post-Harvey Weinstein world, there’s an awful anticipation over which star’s worst-kept secret will be outed next. The outpouring of claims of sexual harassment and abuse helped popularize the #MeToo social media campaign, encouraging women to share their stories and spurring allegations against upwards of 60 high-profile men. In October, the movement’s momentum hit the foodservice industry. Since, behemoths such as Mario Batali, John Besh and Todd English were forced to confront accusations of alleged sexual harassment or misconduct.

For many women, the scope of the industry’...

FSD Resources