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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Industry News & Opinion

The University of Maryland will begin offering weekly specials at all of its dining halls this semester, The Diamond Back reports.

The weekday specials will allow Dining Services to offer past menu items that students miss as well as new dishes students have been requesting, according to a spokesperson.

Students can find out which specials are being offered each week via dining hall table tents as well as through Dining Services’ social media. During select weeks, the specials may reflect a particular theme, such as Taste of the South.

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Ideas and Innovation
email computer screen

Communication is key, and [managers] are busy too. One tip I picked up from another director was to label my subject line with the header “action,” “information” or “response” followed by a brief description of the email contents. That way they can filter through their inboxes during their busy days to know which emails need their attention immediately and which they can save to read later.

Ideas and Innovation
pinterest hand phone

We like to offer a constantly changing menu. Last year, I started a Pinterest account—not for marketing, but for my team, so that they can look to the recipes for inspiration and try something new. We tried protein cookies based onto a Pinterest recipe, and our residents loved them.

Ideas and Innovation
coal creek student salad bar

When I was visiting Minneapolis Public Schools, I saw that they have these cool signs on top of their salad bars. As soon as we got back, we re-created them. They are big and branded, and have the portion requirements. They say “Taste something new today” on one side, and we support our local farmers on the other. They help the bars look fresh and delish, and attract students’ eyes.

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