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.

This takes the cake

The foodservice department at Reid Hospital & Healthcare Services in Richmond, Ind., is also seeing positive results against a negative fiscal climate, partly because of catering. The overall foodservice business is up some 50% for the year, says Michelle McClurg, director of food and nutrition services.

The Reid foodservice catering team includes two full-time staff members, a chef and administrative support; it also makes use of the procurement and production supervisor in the department to support the catering business when needed, McClurg says. But the real boon to catering has been staff member Lisa Turner Blumer, who also is a professional cake decorator and is cross-trained in catering and the niche cake business. That’s been a distinguishing element for Reid of late, as several local businesses have stopped doing custom cake decorating altogether.

“[Blumer] has done phenomenal work,” McClurg says. “We’re just getting more and more orders all the time, and that’s spinning off into general catering orders, too.”

Reid’s foodservice operation includes three entities: an eatery, Café at Twelve Hundred, Café at Twelve Hundred Catering and Café at Twelve Hundred Cake Decorating. The services are aligned to feed off each other’s business. The hospital is also well positioned for catering in regards to resources, McClurg says. For example, Blumer uses the bakery when the baker is done with all the patient services and daily café menu items for the day.

“We are able to continue to build revenue from the already running ovens after the baker is gone by making cakes,” McClurg says.

The new Grand Hall at Reid can hold up to 350 people in its main area, but the catering crew can serve even more meals by doing several different events at once.

“We can expand to multiple levels in the Reid facility and change venues,” McClurg says. “We can do stations or sit-down dinners. We do what’s necessary in order to create the event—not what we necessarily say we have done before. We do a lot of station-type concepts. We just did a major one with a fabulous dessert station.”

At a recent event Blumer created a cake in the shape of the word “ART” with a contemporary styling. At about two-feet tall and two-feet wide, the cake became a tall focal point that could be seen from across the room. The purpose was to have the guests walk away thinking, “That entire thing was cake; I wonder who did that?” McClurg says.

Blumer wore a pink chef’s coat to the event, whereas everyone else was in black and white, so that she stood out from the crowd.

“That whole thing was to make people remember that we’re doing specialty cakes now,” McClurg says. “Our goal from that station was to promote the cakes when we have 300 potential customers to do that with.”

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