Contract catering sales on the up

CGA’s latest research found that contract caterers' third-quarter sales are up year-on-year – but that they still significantly lag behind pre-Covid levels. The latest edition of the company's Contract Caterer Tracker shows that sales from July to September 2021 were up by 52% on the same three months in 2020. This was a period when many venues served by caterers were under substantial restrictions.

However, the Tracker also indicates a 36% drop in third-quarter sales from the same period in 2019, when businesses were trading as normal. It shows contract caterers continue to suffer from the effects of national lockdowns and the drop in footfall in workplaces and sectors like leisure and live events. On a month-by-month basis, there were signs of some improvement between sales in July (down 38% on 2019) and September 2021 (down 29%).

Karl Chessell, CGA’s director – hospitality operators and food, EMEA, said: “These figures show the scale of the Covid after-shocks that contract caterers are dealing with. While it’s pleasing to see a revival in sales since last summer, this is from very low comparatives, and the 36% shortfall from 2019 is a more realistic measure of the challenges faced by contract caterers.

“Demand will build in due course, but with many people continuing to work from home or cautious about returning to crowded spaces, and supply, recruitment and cost issues mounting, the sector will be under pressure for some time to come.”

The Tracker aggregates sales from leading operators to provide reports with year-on-year analysis. It offers businesses a benchmarking tool to measure performance across various metrics and market groupings.

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