FSD 2008 Catering Study

Innovation and diversification could be key to non-commercial caterers surviving 2009.

How did non-commercial caterers do during the last year? What does the new year hold for them? What are the major challenges and opportunities as these operators battle their commercial counterparts for a share of the stomach in this competitive field? FSD's survey shows that innovation and diversification could be key to non-commercial caterers surviving 2009.

A slumping economy means non-commercial operators who offer catering will have to work harder in 2009 just to keep pace with 2008. At least, that was the view on three college campuses in different sections of the country as the holiday catering season wound down. As a matter of fact, one operator frankly was surprised that 2008 turned out as well as it did.

“To tell you the truth, I had been thinking that our business was really down from last year, which was a record year for us,” says Abbot Albright, catering administrator for Dining Services at the University of Maryland. “Then I saw our recent P & L statement, and we are almost even. I do think, however, after the inauguration is over we will see a severe downturn. There are regularly scheduled events, such as football and family weekend, which people will attend. However, the extras such as off-campus clients coming in, or weddings at the Alumni Center, are simply not there.”

Albright predicts that business will decline as “state budgets clam up.” He also believes check averages will shrink for weddings and other special events.

Across the country, at the University of California at Berkeley, Shawn LaPean, director of Cal Dining, says his department’s catering business also has stagnated.

“We are seeing our business, which was building at 15% to 18% per year in revenue flattening out this year, to where we think we will only have sales that match last year,” says LaPean. “Most clients are not asking for the bells and whistles this year and instead are turning to simple lunch events versus expensive dinners. Everyone wants ‘austere.’ They are afraid to have events that look too fancy.”

He added that the percentage of clients who are asking for what he calls “freebies”—reduced rates or free decorations, for instance—has grown from 20% to as much as 70%.

Pages

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

Hutchinson Middle School in Hutchinson, Minn., invited students to help serve lunch in an effort to encourage their peers to try new, healthy recipes, Hutchinson Leader reports.

The students, who are part of the school’s Students in Action Club, created posters to advertise the new meal and helped serve it to students during lunch.

The school’s kitchen manager, Janet Schmidt, said that around 37 more students than normal got in line to try the meal. The school plans to have students from the club help serve lunch once every month.

Read the full story via Hutchinson...

Industry News & Opinion

In an effort to trim costs, the country’s largest senior living company laid off 100 staff members, including regional dining services directors, reports Senior Housing News .

Not all employees who were laid off will technically leave the company, Senior Housing News notes, as some will be reassigned to alternative positions. Brookdale recently posted third-quarter earnings that fell short of analysts’ expectations and that the company’s CEO called disappointing.

At the end of last year, the Brentwood, Tenn.-based company employed 53,000 workers on a full-time basis, and...

Industry News & Opinion

After receiving mixed feedback from parents, Randolph County School District in Asheboro, N.C., is inviting parents to tour the district’s kitchens and cafeterias to see how the food for school meals is made, Fox 8 reports.

School officials say that the tours, part of the district’s first Food Day for Parents, will give parents an inside look at the upkeep of the facilities, as well as enable them to sample some food and see how the district is upholding USDA guidelines.

Officials also hope that the tours will provide them with more guidance on what parents and students are...

Industry News & Opinion

After fielding complaints from parents and students, Sodexo is launching an initiative to improve dining services at Emerson College in Boston, the Berkeley Beacon reports.

The initiative will kick off this month with an event dubbed Fresh Start, marking the start of several moves aimed at improving service—including the hiring of a new executive chef, the addition of a second sous chef, and retraining current staff on food preparation and presentation.

Members of the Emerson community will also be able to share feedback through the introduction of monthly forums, as well...

FSD Resources