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

Industry News & Opinion

This semester, the East Quad dining team at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor is taking steps to offer more authentic global cuisine , Michigan Daily reports.

The team has partnered with the Office of Student Life to start a conversation with students on how best to create and serve Middle Eastern and North African cuisine. Additionally, the university invited chefs from Japan and India to campus to help its chefs create more authentic recipes.

The school’s push for more accurate global cuisine was partially inspired by an international food event that got cancelled...

Industry News & Opinion
Madison food truck

The Madison Metropolitan School District in Madison, Wis., has partnered with a local organization to debut a food truck that will serve healthy, locally sourced lunch options for Madison high school students, according to The Capital Times .

The truck, which was donated by the Emmi Roth Cheese Co., will visit four high schools Tuesday through Friday, spending a day at each campus. Students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch can use the food truck as they would the school cafeteria for no-cost or discounted meals.

Members of MMSD and partner organization REAP Food...

Industry News & Opinion

Identifying prospective employees may be less challenging for foodservice operators than getting would-be recruits to complete the hiring process , according to a new study of why job applicants bail.

The report shows that nearly three out of fours applicants (74%) will drop their effort to be hired if they suspect management is racist, and two out of three (62%) will flee if they learn of sexual harassment allegations. Roughly the same proportion (65%) will halt their pursuit if they encounter indications of a gender gap in pay.

About half (45%) of candidates won’t show...

Menu Development
zoodles

Here’s how two operations are spotlighting produce this season.

Oodles of zoodles

Binghamton University underscored its growing focus on plant-based options with a recent zoodle pop-up on campus. The pop-up, which served vegetable noodle bowls in vegan and vegetarian varieties, sold out of the dishes in four hours. The Binghamton, N.Y., school aims to add zoodles to its regular menu in the fall.

A buffet boost

The dining team at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, recently re-evaluated its buffet offerings with an eye toward adding healthy options. It updated the fruit and...

FSD Resources