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.

Dining services at the 11,700-student University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., has had two major issues to deal with in recent months: a failing economy and a struggling football team. Unfortunately, both events have hit catering sales equally hard.

Notre Dame’s dual catering issues are not unique: Across the country, on-site catering concerns are being adversely affected by the depressed economy. However, at the home of the famous Fighting Irish, dining services is taking a harder look at its resources and battling back with a revised outlook and a new game plan—and they are not alone.

Confronting the economy plus a loss of interest in the university’s once great football team have been part of the “extra challenge” Notre Dame Food Services has been facing during the past two years, says Lisa Wenzel, assistant director, NDFS. Both events have had a negative impact on overall foodservice, Wenzel says. “Our sports programs are not as strong as before, so that has an effect. It’s been the perfect storm.”

To fight back, NDFS’s catering arm, “Catering…by Design,” has created a new menu offering aptly titled Affordable Entertainment, plus an aggressive one-on-one marketing blitz targeting the Notre Dame community through cold calling, networking and trade shows.

Launched in April 2009, the new menu provides lower-cost items paired with a simpler service, effectively cutting regular menu offerings by 20%, Wenzel says. The change was due to the economy and customer feedback. “Their perception was that we were a little too highly priced,” she says.

Part of that stemmed from university-wide budget cuts, which prompted campus departments to look for creative ways to cut costs without losing personnel. Like many institutions and corporations nationwide, they’ve accomplished that by slashing entertainment.

“That really cuts into catering,” Wenzel says.  “We’re trying to balance that by doing things differently. People are doing less expensive events. Instead of served meals they may be doing something in their office; we’re setting up and cleaning up after them.”

In the Affordable Entertainment package, the Budget-Friendly Hors D’oeuvre menu is priced at $6 per dozen pieces and may include polenta triangles with pancetta and brie; chili and corn fritters; spicy chicken and cilantro wontons; and brown sugar smokies. The Budget-Friendly Drinks menu is priced at $7.50 per gallon and serves approximately 20 guests.

Pages

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

In a bid to beef up its presence in sports arenas and a variety of other large venues, Sodexo will acquire foodservice vendor Centerplate for $675 million.

Sodexo says the deal, which is expected to be finalized by the end of this year, will more than double its global footprint.

Centerplate, which serves as the foodservice operator for a number for stadiums, convention halls and other event spaces, brought in revenues of $998 million for the year ending June 2017, according to Sodexo. Centerplate was purchased five years ago by Olympus Partners, a private-equity company...

Menu Development
eggs

Loyola University Maryland took a new approach to all-day breakfast with an egg-focused concept.

Breakfast options were top of mind for students when asked what they would like to see on the menu at the university’s revamped Boulder Garden Cafe. Instead of creating an all-day breakfast station, however, the Baltimore-based dining team went beyond traditional options and created a concept that services all mealparts with eggs.

“It can be somewhat mundane,” says Executive Chef Don Crowther on why the team strayed away from the trendy all-day breakfast. At the eatery’s Sunny...

Industry News & Opinion

The University of Kansas has added a retail pass that allows students to purchase one to-go combo meal per day at cafes and markets on campus, the University Daily Kansan reports.

The pass is available on two different meal plans and is geared toward on-the-go students who don’t have the time to sit down and eat at a residence hall.

“It has increased the participation rate,” Jamie Reed, a service assistant for the school’s dining services, told the University Daily Kansan.

Over 1,800 students have used the pass since its debut at the beginning of the semester....

Industry News & Opinion

The University of Minnesota dining team has created a vegan student group in an effort to improve the school’s vegan offerings, Minnesota Daily reports.

The group was created by the school’s foodservice vendor, Aramark, and its campus sustainability coordinator, who is vegan, after receiving numerous complaints from students about the lack of vegan options on campus.

The group will this week host its first meeting, during which members will be able to share feedback and provide solutions to help enhance the school’s vegan offerings. Members will also keep a photo journal...

FSD Resources