Contractors serve 1.62bn meals a year

03/03/2009 - 00:00
Figures just released show contract caterers served 1.62 billion meals to customers last year, a 1.2% rise from the 1.59 billion of the year before.

The data come from the 2009 British Hospitality Association's annual Food & Service Management (FSM) Survey, which was launched today. Although the increase in meals served in 2008 was not as large as the increases seen in the two previous years, the story of the survey is one of continuing growth. The business and industry sector continues to dominate, being responsible for 717 million meals, 44.3% of the total. In terms of numbers the education sector (both state and independent schools) accounted for 354 million meals, a drop of 2.6% on the figures for 2007. Healthcare also saw a slight drop, with meals served in 2008 reaching 197 million, against the 210 million of the year before. Alongside B&I, the other growth area was military feeding, with Ministry of Defence contracts selling 170 million meals in 2008, a 1.4% increase on the year before. As with meals, so staff feeding dominates the statistics on the number of contracted outlets operating in 2008. The B&I sector was responsible for 8,719 in 2008, just over half the industry total and a 3.4% increase on the figures for 2007. Other significant sectors include education with 5,773 outlets, which is 34% of the total number of 16,893 but shows a 3.4% drop on the numbers operated in 2007. However, the relatively healthy picture painted by the 2008 survey is a reflection of the period in which the data was drawn, which largely occurred before the recession began when food and energy costs were a far greater concern. What is clear from the latest survey is that the FSM sector continued to make gains in 2008 – strongly in both business and industry (B&I) outlets (including staff catering in department stores) and Ministry of Defence (MoD) contracts. Against that, it lost ground particularly in the state and independent schools sector schools compared to 2007 while the number of contracted NHS hospitals also declined. Cost pressures in state school meal catering, combined with regulatory pressures to overhaul menus and meet strict new standards have made it a particularly challenging business environment. The danger for contractors in this sector is that investment is needed to meet new statutory obligations at the same time as uptake is dropping as pupils vote with their feet because they are not happy with the new dishes they are being offered. The principal cost pressure facing operators during 2008 related to food, with costs across the board rising by an average of 8%. At over 3,250, the number of support services undertaken by FSM companies continues to be significant, though this is fewer than the figure for 2007. Cleaning is by far the most popular service provided. In addition to these services provided as part of a catering contract, there were 580 services provided by operators that were not part of a catering contract.

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