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Corporate Food Service

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
Hi guys! I'm new to posting in this forum, but I need help! I run an upscale catering business, premise being local, sustainable ingredients. That being said, I've been aproached to cater a corporate cafeteria where the menu is very basic ($5-$7 for a meal). It would be for approximately 650 people daily. In return for running this kitchen, my primary kitchen would get to cater, exclusively, all the events for their partner/CEO functions. This is the first time I've been approached to do anything like this and I don't now what to think! Anyone with any experience on the topic???? Profitable..not?? Pain in the butt...Not? Any comments would be greatly appreciated!!!:confused:
post #2 of 13
wow. I'd be all over's exactly what I'm looking for.
A friend of mine caters out of a seminary and provides lunch for 50-75, 4 days a week.
Selection of:
1) pasta
2) pizza
3) entree with veg
4) salad
5) dessert
$ cost $1.75

They use alot of what is leftover from catering jobs to make lunches for the next day. They are growing exponetially. Took on a 375 plated gala last month.

I'm all about local. Think about how you could be a great supporter of the local farmers by buying product from them. Chef's Garden has a huge amount of secondary product that may be affordable and is wonderful. Culls/seconds make great sauces. Have a contract to buy salad greens.

Just keep the menu simple.
Soup, salad (watch the salad bar, my experience is that it's really pricey to run), one daily entree with sides, sandwiches or pizza.
cooking with all your senses.....
cooking with all your senses.....
post #3 of 13

Stop and Think!

On the face of it, this looks like a great opportunity, but you need to think about your business and what you've set out to do. Does this opportunity fit with your business plans and goals? Is there an opportunity to upgrade the caf food so that it's more local and sustainable than food from Sysco? Will the exclusive catering agreement bring in enough $$ to justify changing the direction of your business?

You also need to think about how you will manage this type of "side business." You will have to hire lots of staff and probably someone to manage the kitchen if you want to continue with your upscale catering. And then you'll have to train people, deal with turn-over, etc, etc...

In short, are you willing to change your business model and get into a very different business than you're currently in?

If you have an accountant or someone you know who's good with modeling costs/profit, etc, talk to them to see what this type of opportunity will net you.

And then, check with your gut instincts! Good luck and let us know what you decide.

Chef Andrea
Chef Andrea
Catering by Dinner is Served
Chef Andrea
Catering by Dinner is Served
post #4 of 13
Pizza would be a great idea, pasta also you could have a salad bar around 30-35 cents an ounce. Cookies Otis Spunkmeyer I forgot (if you order from sysco is like half the price of a box of cookies (preportioned i think 2 1/2 ounce chocolate chip cookies. Sandwiches just put a about 3-4 slices on each plus a cheese slice and then serve coniments on the side and then put lettuce and tomato on the salad bar as well onions. Fresh veggies if you want to put on the salad bar. Soups would as well be great to do from scratch cooking. heres a few ideas hope some of this helps. Also, if you do pizza theres a pizza crust already made, frozen in disc's just thaw out takes like 10 minutes on the oven top with sauce then cheese and toppings.
post #5 of 13
Not to get off topic (might deserve it's own thread), but since buying local and Sysco have been mentioned in this thread, you might find this story from the LA Time interesting. A food fight over the cream of the crop - Los Angeles Times
post #6 of 13
Shannon, I'm telling you this with 40 years of experience under my belt: The minute you take over the cafeteria, your upscale catering business will end...period...fini! Even if you just walk around that cafeteria kitchen; no hands on food prep, you will be too exhausted to also run your catering business. And, within a very short period of time, you'll be known as the woman who produces the cafeteria chow; not a credible, quality caterer. It's simply the way of the food world; you can't run a $5-7 dollar cafeteria line and bill $30 to $50 a plate for fine catering. Even your employer will begin to look elsewhere for exec catering. Make up your mind. Do you want to run a cafeteria and get a paycheck and company benefits or do you want to run your own catering company. I don't believe the two have long term compatibility.
post #7 of 13
It is happening here.

Designing Chef's in can check out the site.

Several top end caterers have a secondary low end (box lunch/BBQ etc) with a different name arm of their company.

The numbers you are talking about are much larger than the ones I've dealt with.....600 lunches.....that's a lot of lunches. St. Louis University is running a local foods cafeteria they serve about 200 people (including non-students)
I consulted with them for a couple of years. Anyway, local food is doable....and you have a decent farmer base in Cinncinati.
Comes down to what do you want to do?
Anyway you cut it, this is a big job undertaking.
cooking with all your senses.....
cooking with all your senses.....
post #8 of 13
Thread Starter 


Thank you guys so much for your input, it is greatly appreciated. I've decided not to pursue the corporate kitchen for a lot of reasons. But mostly I am happy with my upscale business. I really can't forsee a time that I would be happy doing anything less! Not to mention business is going great! seated 500 on Tues. All of our efforts are starting to pay off. I appreciate the responses and took them all into consideration before making the decision:talk:
post #9 of 13
Your business is running well don't worry about it.
I thnink you will happy because it have good condition and having good income.
post #10 of 13
These are typically corporate entities with significant full time staff personnel. Perhaps, my assumption is incorrect, but I assumed that the inquiry was made by a "hands-on" caterer not a major catering corporation.
post #11 of 13
three weeks ago I was approached to take over a corporate venue, Compass had the contract and was essentially warming premade food. Healthy options but little scratch shtuff. 600 in building with 800 coming in the next year....120 breakfast 130 lunch. But the kitchen was not big enough to run catering out the back door. CEO was changing caterers with very little explaination, just wanted healthier options NOW>
The RFP is tacked onto the cork board, but this is just one I'm passing on.
Interesting, after doing the research....people who have done it before call it feeder operations, essentially you make profit from vending machines and catering. day to day is not where the money is. Really interesting.
Topical in all the years I've been cooking, it's funny that this thread came up just before the phone call.
cooking with all your senses.....
cooking with all your senses.....
post #12 of 13
Not long ago, I had an informal chat with the food service manager of a huge hospital complex. Of course, there's the patient's service, two cafeterias for visitors and hospital staff, etc. Where did the food service manager say he had his highest profit margins??? Yup...24/7 in service vending machines.
post #13 of 13


I am in the B&I segment and a few pointers that may help you.

If you are doing Breakfast and lunch only and on a daily basis with 650 employees you can average 1/3 will come and eat in your account daily, unless you have a captured audience.

If you get the catering than you will make up for your losses there but have exclusive rights and in writing.

Cafeterias can be tricky the key is keeping costs low, utilizing leftovers and being very very creative.

I have a TON of ways I can assist let me know



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