The UK contract catering market was impacted severely by the economic downturn in 2009, with the fall in employment leading to fewer people in the workplace requiring to be fed.
Turnover declined in 2010; in addition, the number of meals served and provided by outlets declined across the market. Although the industry has gradually begun to recover, the process has been slow.
Contract catering is the act of providing food and drinks on a given set of terms of contract. The range of responsibilities may involve delivery of meals, technical support or even full management of a restaurant. The contract that will be signed between the parties should disclose all material obligations to be involved in.
While outsourcing remains an important driver of market recovery and growth, its level, and hence impact on market growth, varies by sector.
In spite of this volatility, the industry is proving resilient. In order to cope with market conditions, companies are restructuring their operations and cancelling unprofitable contracts and reassessing their supply chain.
In addition, enterprises are keeping up with market trends by offering healthier menus and convenient solutions, as well as promoting their corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies. This is helping them to retain their appeal in the market.
The largest operators are Compass and Sodexo. Both of these companies have continued to expand their service offer to include a wide range of non-catering services and are now major international operations with presence in many countries.
However, the fastest-growing of the leading companies has been BaxterStorey. In contrast, it has retained its focus on UK catering, winning a series of high-profile contracts from incumbent competitors.
Future growth in the contract catering market appears likely given the further potential for outsourcing. Growth will be driven by the ability of catering companies to promote outsourcing through their investments in complementary support services.
For more information on the UK contract catering market, see the latest research: UK Contract Catering Services Market
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