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Clarion Group Presents Challenges Faced by Corporate Food Service Operators

Kingston, NH, July 12, 2012 --( “Corporate food service operators are facing a slow-motion crisis as technology is enabling companies to reduce head counts in their offices, factories and other workplaces,” says Tom Mac Dermott, president of Clarion Group, a food service consulting firm. “Fewer on-site employees mean fewer customers for the food service.”

“College and university food services don’t face the same dilemma,” he adds, “because enrollments remain strong and, for many campuses, growing.”

Technology challenges the food service operator on four fronts:

· Increased automation and offshoring of routine jobs decreases total employment.
· Companies encourage employees to work from home or other off-premises locations.
· Many employees, especially well-educated managerial, professional and technical
· Employees prefer to bring their own “healthier” food from home. Others bring their meals to save money. Either way, they don’t but meals from the food service operator.

Statistics from the Society for Foodservice Management’s “Industry Standards and Benchmark Comparisons” semi-annual study of corporate food service operations illustrates the trend. In its 2010 survey, food service operators reported that an average of only 36% of the available population had lunch in the company food service facility that was self-sustaining and only 38% did so when the company subsidized its food service program (meaning café prices were blow market). The 2012 survey, to be published in the fall, is expected to show further erosion in food service participation.

These trends are valuable to companies, because they increase efficiency, reduce payroll and benefits costs and reduce the amount of expensive real estate they need to occupy. In some cases, companies can eliminate the on-site food service operation, reduce its size or replace it with just vending machines.

“The food service operator can’t defeat these trends,” Mac Dermott says, “but can reduce their impact through innovative menu development and marketing to attract as many of the remaining on-site population to become customers.”

“One essential element,” Mac Dermott says, “is revising menus to provide and promote fresh, healthy foods, prepared ‘from scratch’ in the kitchen, featuring local and, as possible, organic ingredients. The fresh/local/organic trend is ignored by the food service operator at his/her peril.”

“Even the health-oriented and thrifty customer can be induced to buy at least a part of a meal if it’s attractive and tasty – including low calorie or fruit-based desserts,” he adds.

The best way to attract customers to purchase hot meals is to offer meals cooked in front of the customer at the serving line, called “exhibition cooking” by many food service operators. All that’s needed is an induction cooking unit, sauté pans and pre-prepared fresh ingredients that can be assembled and seasoned to the customer’s taste and cooked quickly while he/she watches.
“Customers equate “healthy” with “fresh” and define fresh as “made while I watch,” Mac Dermott notes.

“And of course,” he adds, “the food service operator has to advertise and market these new features out in the workplace, through fliers, posters and the company website to attract the people who normally don’t come to the food service location for meals.”

About Clarion Group:
Clarion Group is a consulting firm that advises companies, professional firms, colleges and universities, independent schools and institutions in the management, operation and improvement of their in-house employee/student food services, catering, conference, lodging and related hospitality services throughout the U.S. and Canada.

For information, contact:
Tom Mac Dermott, FCSI, President
Clarion Group
PO Box 158, Kingston, NH 03848-0158
603/642-8011 or
Contact Information
Clarion Group
Tom Mac Dermott

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