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.

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
kale quinoa salad

With all the hype around probiotics, we decided to create a daily dish that incorporates probiotics in addition to prebiotics. You rarely hear about prebiotics, and this was a great way to highlight how the two work synergistically to maintain a healthy gut. Our chefs have developed menu items such as roasted salmon with yogurt and mint vinaigrette; kale and quinoa salad with warm maple dressing; and leek soup with pickled cucumbers, to name a few.

Ideas and Innovation
packaged meals

While the multiple-choice questions on FoodService Director’s annual census surveys are a great way of gathering data on trends, I’ve always been rather partial to the open-ended queries. We can’t possibly think up every answer operators might have to a particular question, and it gives respondents a chance to show some personality as well. (A special nod to one cheeky operator’s not-quite-safe-for-work response to how they’re tackling shortened lunch periods—you made my day.)

So this year, for the first time since I’ve been at FoodService Director, I chose to include a very open-...

Menu Development
ramen bowl spoon chopsticks

Asian noodle soups are a popular lunch option at YouTube’s San Bruno, Calif., campus, says Trent Page, the GM at Bon Appetit Management who runs the company’s three corporate dining venues. But Page noticed an increasing preference for customizable dishes and vegan preparations among the 1,000 customers he feeds daily. Inspired by a recent visit to Japan, he introduced tsukemen to the menu—a dish that features most of the traditional ramen ingredients (noodles, eggs and vegetable garnishes) served separately so diners can mix and match. “Separating the components makes it more customizable...

Ideas and Innovation
chicken dinner

For the last three years, we’ve hosted an event called Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner. We sponsor the local chapter of Future Farmers of America to raise the chickens, and we have to arrange all the transporting from farms to the distributor, which keeps the birds in a freezer until we’re ready. We build hype by having students vote on the proprietary spice blend they would like on the chicken. It helps the nutrition team get involved in the educational process and showcase local food purchasing.

FSD Resources