Canada and tourism — страница 6

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Frequency. Catering is a volume business. Social caterers and hoteliers typically cater at least one event every day, usually more. They have a voracious appetite for bookings and the capability of handling up to 100 functions a month. As worn out as operators of fine dining restaurants might be, more than one-third cater in excess of 13 functions per month. Most of these take place in their restaurants. Among the non-commercial operators, hospitals, colleges, and contract employee feeders wrack up the catering jobs. They serve patients, students and employees. And, they cater events, usually for fewer than 50 people, on their premises. These kitchens are running a type of room service with small groups eating and meeting in rooms throughout the facility. The survey also shows

sharp differences in the aggressiveness of kitchens run by contract operators over those managed by the institutions themselves. Most contractors tackled more than 13 events per month; whereas, almost 60% of the self-run operations settled for less. Who works the jobs? Entering the catering business to offer staff more hours will probably work. Restaurants and hotels rely on existing wait-staff for catering jobs, often reinforcing them with casual hires, including family members. Social caterers show an especially high tendency to tap family, since their work force must ebb and flow in response to bookings. Busiest seasons: "If you're not prepared to take a hit in January and February and think this is a flat-line business, then you shouldn't be in this business," says

Shelly Pedersen, a longtime caterer and President of the National Association of Catering Executives (NACE). But, catering's seasonality makes sense. Family restaurants, with their casual fare, see catering opportunities rise with summer temperatures. Schools respond to busy classrooms and academic activities in spring and fall. Most other catering operations post their best receipts in winter — largely due to intensive holiday catering. Balancing Pedersen's warning against the fat winter numbers, one can fully appreciate the frenzied holiday party season. Business vs. social: Hidden in the unremarkable splits between the business and the social markets is a surprising strength among family restaurants in catering business functions. They report that more than 71 per cent of

their catering dollars come from business and corporate clients. Businesses and corporations obviously keep the catering phenomenon alive. Even schools (66 percent of them) cater business events. In fact, there are more schools handling corporate events than handling community meetings, according to the survey. Social caterers most often answer the call for ethnic theme parties. According to Kramer, the rise in international corporate affiliations has opened the field for ethnic themes. If a firm opens a new branch in China, for instance, get ready for dragons and fireworks. She also points out the care with which ethnic themes must be executed. "Corporations have to be in tune with their audience. Once you've done enough research, you can create a theme with wonderful

ambiance. Anytime you can theme an event and be socially, politically, and morally correct, you've got a hit. On-premises vs. off: Family restaurants serve more catered meals outside than inside. And even fine dining restaurants attribute 41% of their catering sales to off-premises events. Social caterers rely on attractive facilities and settings for their parties. With demand rising, good rooms are scarce. Therein lies an opportunity that restaurants are seizing with banquet rooms and off-night functions. Besides, off-premise catering often presents unseen dangers. "The science of the food is different," says Shelly Pedersen. "As are the equipment needs and the demands on the staff." Average size group: The flexibility and experience of social caterers seems

to allow them to handle large crowds. Volume can widen profit margins and social caterers, who fight for budget against rent and liquor costs, often make their money head by head. On the whole, gatherings of 100 or less dominate the catering service. Table service vs. buffet: The popularity of buffets continues with one notable exception. Within these figures, resorts and hotels report serving half their catered meals at table. Family restaurants boost buffet scores among commercial operators, since they offer table service at less than ten per cent of the events they handle. Even among fine dining restaurants, however, buffets remain more popular than table service. Ginger Kramer sees the popularity of buffets continuing and increasing along with the demand for theme parties.