Food service operators have a central role to play in tackling the issues of the day: obesity, corporate responsibility and the environment, according to the head of the British Hospitality Association (BHA).
Speaking at the launch dinner of the BHA's 18th UK Food and Service Management Survey on Monday (26 February), BHA chief executive Bob Cotton said the public catering sector has been based on a strong social element since its post-war inception.
"That social element remains today," he said. "And with the issues of nutrition, corporate social responsibility and the environment facing us today, food service's key role in feeding people in the public domain is why the sector is so important to the Government."
The 2006 survey, sponsored by Nestlé Foodservice, revealed that the number of food service outlets and meals served was up. Overall turnover increased 2.6% to £3.768b, with the number of meals served 2.9% higher year-on-year at 1.54 billion.
The business and industry (B&I) sector maintained its lion's share, accounting for 40% of all meals served in the sector, although the report warned that, with more than 9,000 outlets, B&I remains a mature market with little overall growth potential.
Despite the well-publicised difficulties school meals caterers suffered as a result of the "Jamie Oliver effect", the number of state school contracts increased by 11% to 4,413 outlets over the calendar year. Elsewhere in the public sector, the number of Ministry of Defence outlets declined from 490 in 2005 to 421.
With the lunch hour in most workplaces now closer to 30 minutes than an hour, "grab and go" snacks accounted for 60% of all sales.
The survey showed that the traditional subsidies that made large-scale catering possible after the Second World War continue to be eroded, with 70% of outlets now operated on some sort of commercial basis.
The UK food service market
- In 1990 the contract catering sector was valued at £1.3b in turnover. Today it is more than £3.7b.
- There were 17,373 food service outlets in 2006, 2.3% more than in 2005.
- Food service employs 146,307 people (compared with 150,487 in 2005).
- Branded outlets - in-house and franchise - rose 3.2% year-on-year to 9,480 outlets.
- Labour cost as a percentage of turnover in 2006 was 45.5% (2005: 45.6%).
Source: The BHA's 18th UK Food and Service Management Survey
By Chris Druce
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