UK contract caterers served a record number of meals last year, with sector turnover breaking the £4b barrier for the first time, research revealed today.
The 20th Food and Service Management Survey, from the British Hospitality Association (BHA), shows that sector turnover in 2008 grew by 3.9% to £4.1b (2007: £3.98b).
Contractors also served a record 1.62 billion meals, 1.2% up on 1.6b in 2007, the Nestlé Professional sponsored survey revealed.
Despite this, the number of outlets actually fell by 3.5% to 16,983, with business and industry (B&I) contributing more than half (up 3.3% to 8,719).
Phil Hooper, chairman of the BHA Food Service Management Forum, said the report showed that the sector will face challenges but also see opportunities during the recession.
"I believe growth in 2009 is not only possible but likely," he said. "This present recession is likely to be a source of new business for contractors."
Hooper said that, while the B&I sector was now taking a hit due to lay-offs, and the education market remained volatile, public services remained stable and the slowdown would present opportunities for caterers to provide more support services.
"Food service management companies with skill and know-how have the ability to adapt to changing circumstances," he said. "They can bring particular strengths to the marketplace, which are difficult for the in-house caterer to provide."
By Chris Druce
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