FSD 2008 Catering Study

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

All types of business: The types of services rendered can run the gamut from breakfast to receptions. Among operators who offer catering, 94% cater breakfasts, 89% do deli meat/salad/buffet lunches, 89% do break service, 87% do hot/cold buffets, 84% offer box lunches and 74% sit-down meals. Fifty percent do cocktail receptions, which seem to be a service for larger institutions or companies; only 28% of operators with less than $100,000 in annual catering revenue do such receptions, while 92% of operators with revenue of $500,000 or more do.

Catering business leans most heavily toward lunch, with 42% of catering revenue, on average, coming from that daypart. Another 29% comes from breakfast, 21% from dinner and only 8% from special events such as weddings.

College catering is the most expensive. The average per-person prices for college catering were $8.09 for breakfast, $12.27 for lunch, $21.26 for dinner and $30.01 for special events. (Only B&I/contractors was higher for dinner, $25.48, and special events, $37.86.) By contrast, school catering is the least expensive, with an average of $3.94 for breakfast, $6.68 for lunch, $10.72 for dinner and $15 for special events.

Drop-off catering, in which caterers make up and deliver platters but offer no service, makes up a sizeable portion of business for most, particularly at breakfast and lunch. On average, only 35% of breakfast business is full-service, as is only 41% at lunch. At dinner, however, full service makes up 69% of business, and 80% of special events are handled as full-service events. Drop-off service is most prevalent in hospitals and B&I/contractors. At breakfast, 75% of hospital catering and 78% of B&I/contractor catering is drop-off; at lunch the percentages are 69% for hospitals and 72% for B&I/contractors. Even at dinner, hospital caterers tend to do more drop-off than any other segment, 43% compared with only 24% for schools and 23% for colleges, for example.

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