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.

Drawing them in

Notre Dame’s catering team has been creating brand recognition events as well, from one-on-one meetings to seminars.

“We’re a not-for-profit doing non-traditional marketing,” Wenzel says. “We’re doing more trade shows and having a lot of interaction with local chamber of commerce businesses, such as drop-ins with plates of cookies.”

While dropping off goodies to a potential customer, she’ll ask, “Hey, have you thought about your Christmas entertaining?” Wenzel says. “You get a much better response when you give them cookies before the brochure.”

As most catered events are done on campus, she has to seek out her clients and lure them in. “We have to get people to come here. It’s kind of a dual challenge,” Wenzel added.

A yearly marketing event, the Fall Fete, showcases the catering menu alongside products from a local decorator and rental company to show university personnel what types of events—from casual to elegant—their in-house foodservice team can produce. Another marketing lure is the December Special, which offers catering clients a dozen free Christmas cookies with any food delivery made between Dec. 21-23. The offer is only for orders placed at least three days ahead of service.

Miami University’s King pulls business in by keeping track of Carillon Catering’s comprehensive four-year marketing plan to follow where targeted revenue growth is headed. That includes the wedding and fraternity/sorority markets. Toward the latter, King is offering the Direct to You! brand to pitch home meal replacements; he’d like to capture a piece of their weekly meetings as well.

He’s also pushing his lunch catering arm “a little bit more” so that it makes sense from the students’ standpoint for a “quick in and out” meal approach. And rather than paring down the pricing on the Carillon Catering restaurant menu, King has put more emphasis on the food items.

“I didn’t want to discount it; I didn’t want to dilute what we’ve done in the past,” he says, adding that moves such as taking $10 off an entrée price just leaves the customers feeling as if they’d been paying too much all along. “We’ve looked at some items. We’ve gone with some smaller portions, and we’re selling a lot of chicken.”

Carillon Catering also scaled back its fillet option for the black-and-blue beef tenderloin. Where customers might have ordered a 6-ounce to 8-ounce tenderloin, they’re now going for the 4-ounce portion, which has a 25% to 35% lower cost than the larger fillet.

“It’s presented in such a manner that people are enjoying it. We seem to be selling a lot of those,” King says. The chef builds the 4-ounce fillet upon vanilla bean mashed potatoes, with a blueberry demi-glaze over blue cheese. It’s part of King’s adherence to the rule that people eat with all five senses. “Along with the flavor there’s really great aromas, and it’s presented in a manner that is visually appealing.”

The department has been pushing home meal replacements for Thanksgiving and the summer holiday as well, he says. A complete high-quality meal for 10 goes for about $75.

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

Students and union representatives are petitioning Eastern Michigan University’s plan to outsource its foodservice operations, calling for the school to delay such a move to allow for further discussion with stakeholders, MLive reports .

EMU last week announced a tentative agreement to hand over its residential, catering and retail foodservices to Chartwells, a deal the university’s interim president avered would enable the school to expand and upgrade its eateries while maintaining high food quality, MLive says.

Opponents of the plan say they are concerned about what they...

Sponsored Content
whole grain pasta foodservice menu

From Barilla.

With younger consumers eager to explore new flavors and better-for-you options, whole-grain pasta is winning greater acceptance in American diets.

As more and more college and university students seek out whole grains in their meals, dishes featuring whole grains are on-deck to become menu mainstays.

At the University of Iowa, whole-grain foods have won general acceptance, says Barry Greenberg, executive chef for university dining. Two marketplace dining facilities on campus offer whole-grain pasta as a regular option and incorporate it into baked...

Managing Your Business
woman awake

Summer is no idle time for foodservice directors working at colleges and universities: They’re planning for the futures of their programs. Operators in FoodService Director magazine’s 2016 College and University Census reported an average 16,000-plus students at their schools. During a recent summit FSD hosted with a dozen C&U operators, the people behind some of the nation’s top programs told us what’s keeping them up at night. (FSD is sharing their thoughts anonymously to allow their answers to remain as candid as possible.)

More mouths to feed, but not more resources

At a...

Menu Development
cia menus of change

The Menus of Change initiative aims to do nothing less than change the way the world eats. A collaboration of the Culinary Institute of America and Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School, the program sets out broad principles and ambitious goals that require fundamental changes in foodservice, agriculture, health policy, food processing and even what happens at the family dinner table.

But the means of achieving those lofty ends are often small advances and tweaks to the collective mindset, as the CIA’s annual conference on the initiative reminded attendees this week.

Here...

FSD Resources