Although contract caterers are by no means immune to the looming recession, with client pressure to cut costs and food inflation very much on the agenda, the sector perversely finds itself, in many ways, well-placed.
While the business and industry market is described as "mature" in the UK, there are still a number of significantly-sized companies providing staff catering services with in-house teams. And the perceived "value for money" an outside contractor promises, means that caterers' phones aren't likely to stop ringing anytime soon.
It's likely in 2009 that some of the more daring caterers will introduce new food concepts, possibly pushing down the quality route and certainly offering the client minimal financial exposure.
Will cost pressures favour the larger players such as Compass Group, as predicted by research firm Mintel?
Although it's undoubtedly tough for caterers with turnover south of £15m or so at the moment, a number of the smaller players, which gained traction last year have the potential to capitalise with the likes of Harbour & Jones (which opens a contract at St Paul's in the New Year), Vacherin (which launches its first public restaurant at the East End's Whitechapel Gallery) and Lexington, all being named-checked after a successful 2008.
By Chris Druce
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