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Contract caterers' first-quarter sales rise despite drop in units served

23rd May 2024 - 05:00
Contract caterers' first-quarter sales rise despite drop in units served
Britain’s top contract caterers have begun 2024 strongly with like-for-like sales growth of 7% in the first quarter, according to the Contract Catering Tracker from CGA by NIQ and Bidfood.

It is the Tracker’s 12th quarter of growth in a row following the sector’s recovery form the Covid-19 pandemic. The rate of increase is below the figure of 13% that was recorded in the last quarter of 2023.  

Contract caterers have achieved their sales increases despite a drop in the number of outlets they serve. The Tracker shows that units open in the first quarter of 2024 were 3% fewer than in the first quarter of 2023.

Karl Chessell, business unit director at CGA by NIQ, said: “Contract caterers have made a very impressive recovery from the seismic impacts of Covid-19 and it’s encouraging to see more above-inflation growth in the first quarter.  

“As inflation eases and the confidence of businesses and consumers improves, we can be optimistic about a strong 2024 for the sector. However, a slowdown of growth and a contraction in venues show there is no room for complacency, and caterers will have to stay resolutely focused on quality and value in the months ahead.”

CGA’s partners on the Contract Catering Tracker include: ABM Catering, Artizian Catering Services, Bartlett Mitchell, BaxterStorey, Blue Apple, CH&CO, Compass UK, Elior UK, The Genuine Dining Co., Harrison Catering Services and Sodexo UK.

Debra Morrell, business development controller for business and industry at Bidfood, added: “Although like-for-like sales growth is still positive for the first quarter of 2024, we have seen a soft March figure compared with previous months this year, and a slowing in growth compared to previous quarter.

“Undoubtedly this has been due to the pressure that public sector budgets have been put under, a slight shrinking of the number of sites year on year, and the cost of living crisis still affecting consumer confidence and spend.

“So, cautious optimism will be the name of the game as we look ahead this year. Tapping into those choice drivers that consumers will look for will be key: value for money, healthier and sustainable options, as well as authenticity, innovation and quality."

Written by
Edward Waddell