Contract Catering Sales Down on 2019 Levels in Second Quarter as Cost Pressures Mount

Sales in the contract catering sector remain below pre-COVID-19 levels, though slow but steady growth is being seen, new research from CGA by NielsenIQ and Bidfood’s Contract Catering Tracker reveals.

The latest edition of the Tracker demonstrates that April to June 2022 sales were 56% up on the second quarter of 2021, when lockdown restrictions remained in place for the majority of the period.

However, sales are 11.5% below the second quarter of 2019. The deficit reflects the extent to which contract catering venues have been lost during and since COVID-19. The Tracker denotes that there are now 1,116 fewer units for caterers to serve than there was this time three years ago, as inflation and rising costs are impacting spending. In addition, it’s indicative of lower footfall at venues, despite an almost complete easing of consumer hesitancy.

There are causes for optimism that consumer confidence is returning. Comparison with 2019 data shows three-year sales at -11.5% in the second quarter of 2022. This marks a steady upward trajectory from -20% in the first quarter of 2022 and -26% in the fourth quarter of 2021.

CGA’s Contract Catering Tracker aggregates sales from leading operators to provide quarterly reports with year-on-year analysis. It offers businesses a valuable benchmarking tool to measure performance across various metrics and market groupings, and participants in the Tracker receive additional analysis in return for their contributions.

Karl Chessell, CGA’s director – hospitality operators and food, EMEA, said:
“Despite a complete return to the ‘new normal’, the Tracker shows that the contract catering sector continues to lag behind. Recent working from home and hybrid working models are a contributory factor, alongside inflation concerns that are causing businesses and consumers to tighten their belts. But there’s progressively been less loss of units and sales in three consecutive quarters now, indicating a slow but steady return of confidence in the sector.”

Debra Morrell, business development controller for B&I at Bidfood, said:
“Despite the contract catering market continuing to be badly impacted by the changing behaviours of people as a result of COVID-19, it’s great to see positive signs that businesses are recovering over time. The market has shown relentless adaptability through solutions via innovation to deal with the numerous challenges faced, showing just how strong the contract catering market is across the board.”