FSD 2008 Catering Study

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

Business up or down?:  Half of our respondents said their catering business increased in the last fiscal year, and only 18% reported a decrease, with the rest saying business remained steady. The major reasons for increased business were more catered events (76%) and increased customer satisfaction (73%). Other reasons given were increase in customer base (37%), menu changes (32%) and better marketing/promotion (18%).

Among operators who reported a decline in business, most (76%) cited budget cuts. Another possibly related reason given was fewer events to cater (33%). A decrease in customer base was given by 12% of respondents, and facility issues were named by 7%.

When it comes to the environment, with the exception of colleges and universities, environmentally friendly disposables have yet to become an option for most. Sixty-three percent of college operators make such serviceware available, but only 19% of hospitals do. Forty-two percent of B&I/contractors offer such biodegradable or compostable service items, as do 40% of long-term care operators and 35% of school operators. But among operators who do offer them, the option is provided by most as a value-added service. Only 28% of operators charge extra for environmentally friendly serviceware.

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
vote buttons pins

On every other Thursday of our four-week cycle menu, we allow K-8 students to pick the entree choices. The media center specialist for each of the participating schools sets up the list of entree items on a computer for voting, and the winning entrees are given to cafeteria managers two weeks before the upcoming month to put into production. Students really like this, as it promotes ownership of the menu.

Ideas and Innovation
chalkboard

We highlight our North Carolina products on a large chalkboard in our dining halls, and also list any produce we bring in from our own agroecology farm. It helps tell our story—positive and local.

Ideas and Innovation
raised garden beds

We have raised garden beds that residents can reserve and use to grow their own plants. Whenever a resident brings me fresh produce from their own garden, I try and incorporate it into a dish. If I do end up using it, I will display the resident’s name and what the produce was next to the dish on the menu.

Ideas and Innovation
chartwells teaching kids

Curriculum for the mobile teaching kitchen centers around a single kid-friendly recipe, using ingredients that can provide talking points for nutrition, sustainability and food origins. “The recipe is the lesson,” Saidel says. “Every ingredient is an opportunity to talk.”

Earlier this year, Saidel, Perkins and Harvey did a student demo featuring roasted chicken and white bean tacos with greens and citrus salsa. “We can say, ‘Why are we using chicken instead of beef? Why are there some beans in here?’ You can talk about plant proteins and the sustainability and health message around...

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