Representing the interests of the
European contract catering sector

Contract catering is a unique sector and significantly different to other forms of restaurant services. The catering service is outsourced by a third-party organisation to a specialised company on a contractual base. Contract catering activities can normally be identified by the following features:

  • A contractual relationship between the third-party organisation and the contract catering service provider.
  • Its services are offered in the premises of the third-party organisation.
  • Its sector has a clearly defined clientele: workers, civil servants, school and university students, patients, and prisoners, etc. who have access to a canteen or internal restaurant.
  • Its meals are often delivered to the end consumer at a subsidised “social” price.

Companies, public authorities, crèches, schools, universities, retirement homes, hospitals and prisons are all increasingly relying on contract catering. The contract catering industry has an annual turnover of over €25 billion, with potential for growth as on average only 35% of firms or collective organisations that offer a social food servce in the EU have a contract with a catering company. The sector employs 600,000 people all over Europe and delivers approximately 6 billion meals each year.


This represents
  • 67 million consumers served every day
  • one in four meals taken outside the home
  • one in every two meals taken at the workplace
  • more than one in four meals at school
  • more than one in 10 meals in healthcare or social sectors.

Continued growth
Despite unprecedented progress over the past decade in online developments and telecommunications, work commuting distances continue to grow for many people. In addition, the trend of both parents working outside of the home continues to grow. Finally, with a steadily ageing population in Europe, the need for catered meals in work and other locations continues to rise.

The outsourcing of services has amplified across all sectors due to businesses and other organisations - both in the private and public sector - increasingly realising that outsourcing catering operations allows for a greater focus of attention, time and resources on their core business, as well as provides better value for the operator and the final consumer. 

Evolving relationships
As the trend for eating outside of the home continues to rise; contract catering also spans far more venues and events than in the past, including: sporting events and facilities, museums, train stations, airports and others. These organisations often rely on their contracted caterer to establish a style, atmosphere and image to the final customers.
In addition, contract caterers are increasingly carrying out a wider range of services that go beyond the provision of meals and related food services, with some companies providing overall facility management. Additional services that are being provided by contract caterer companies are notably cleaning, building maintenance, secretarial, security and laundry.