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.

FSD’s 2009 Catering Study

The results of our 2009 Catering Study are in. Here’s a snapshot of the industry, based on the responses of 297 operators:

Eighty-five percent of operators offer catering; virtually all of the respondents in B&I, colleges and hospitals do. In schools, 73% offer catering, while only 68% of operators in long-term care do. The average annual catering volume was $511,246.

Of the operators who do offer catering, 51% cater both on- and off-premise events, with 77% of their business on average coming from on-premise catering. Fifty-five percent of operators say they charge off-premise customers more than they do for on-premise business, with most charging between 11% and 20% more.

The types of services offered run the gamut from breakfast meetings to cocktail receptions. In total, 91% of respondents offer continental breakfast; 89% offer lunches with deli meats, buffets and salads; 89% offer break service that include cookies and pastries; 86% offer hot and cold buffets; 83% make box meals available; 83% do plated meals; and 56% do cocktail receptions. Colleges are most likely to do sit-down meals (98%) and receptions (75%), while schools are least likely (57% and 29%, respectively).

For more than half of the respondents (63%), catering represents 10% or less of their total foodservice revenue. But catering is big business in colleges: 21% of respondents say catering represents more than 30% of their overall revenue, versus only 13% of respondents as a whole.

The downturn in the economy affected a fairly high percentage of operators in 2009; 34% say their catering revenue decreased last year, compared with only 18% the previous year. The recession hit B&I hardest, as 50% say catering business had declined. By contrast, only 21% of long-term care operators reported a decrease last year. By far the reason cited most by operators reporting a decrease (81%) was budget cuts in their companies or institutions. Other noted reasons included fewer events to cater (45%) and a decrease in customer base (22%).

Full-service catering, as opposed to drop-off, makes up the majority of business in all segments except B&I and hospitals. Overall 58% of catering is full-service; it is 77% of the business in long-term care, 62% in colleges and 57% in schools. However, drop-off service makes up 63% of the business in B&I and 53% in hospitals.

Exclusivity is a right enjoyed by 43% of operators. Long-term care (55%) and colleges (54%) are most likely to have the sole right to catering on their campuses, while schools (18%) are least likely.

Overall, 44% of operators offer their customers the options of choosing environmentally friendly disposable serviceware for their catered events. Twelve percent say they use only permanentware. Colleges (64%) are most likely to offer biodegradable/
recyclable serviceware, while long-term care (29%) is least likely. However, overall only 23% of clients are requesting such serviceware, and only 38% of operators will charge customers more if they use it.

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
staff pack

To keep staff motivated, we locked them in a room together. As part of a midsemester training session, we formed work groups and sent them to a local Escape Room to see which team could play the game together most effectively and escape first. Not only was this training a great team-building experience, but it supported a local new business and gave our staff a memorable experience.

Ideas and Innovation
star employee

Senior leadership meets twice a year to do organizational talent planning for every position from the top down. We talk about who are the potential high-performers, and go through how they can grow. People are your differentiator—you need to take care of your assets, and your assets are your human resources.

Industry News & Opinion

Students at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor will be served student-grown produce from the campus farm at dining halls this fall, M Live reports.

The dining team received its first batch of produce from UM’s on-campus farm in June, after students received the proper USDA certification to grow, harvest and deliver food to campus dining halls. In order to figure out what produce is needed, students communicate with the dining department weekly, and Michigan Dining purchases items accordingly.

"The students are involved from seed to plate," Executive Chef Frank Turchan...

Sponsored Content
college students eating

From Ovention.

Today’s colleges and universities know they should offer more than a large selection of breakfast cereals in the morning and chicken tenders at lunch to appeal to students. When it comes to what’s trending on campuses, here’s a look at what directors can tune into to boost engagement.

1. Expanded dining hours

Late-night options have long been a popular fixture on college campuses, but if it’s too late, students often choose to venture to off-campus retailers to satisfy their cravings. According to Technomic’s 2017 College & University Consumer Trend...

FSD Resources