Energy, Oricon: ‘Collective catering costs increased tenfold, especially school canteens at risk’

The expenditure for electricity of collective catering companies has gone from 25,442,000 euros in 2020 to 245,525,000 in 2022, with an increase of 220 million euros. For gas, spending went from € 9,360,000 in 2020 to € 134,975,000 in 2022, about 126 million more. Also on the food raw materials front there is an increase of 24% compared to 2021 (it went from 1,100,833 euros in 2021 to 1,362,727 in 2022). This is what emerges from the latest surveys by OriconCollective Catering and Nutrition Observatory.

Overall, between 2021 and 2022 the incidence of the three items (electricity, gas and raw materials) in collective catering increased overall from 36% to 52% of the total costs incurred.. This estimate does not include the cost of transport and the cost of food packaging materials, where there is an increase in the price of plastic of 70% on an annual basis, of 40% for food carton and 30% for glass.

There is also to consider, writes the Observatory in its surveys, the difficulty in finding some foods due to the critical weather conditions that have characterized the past months and the lack of correlation between the planning of the primary supply chain and the requests of the companies of the communitya: some companies have complained about the total absence of organic poultry during the 2021-2022 school year and exponential increases in available foods (+ 24% organic pasta, + 31% for vegetables, + 15% dairy products, just to make an example). The most conspicuous impact of this ‘perfect storm’ would fall on the more than 1,100 Italian small and medium-sized companies that provide collective catering services (many in school, we are talking about 40.4% of the total) and several after the health emergency are in a condition of economic fragility.

The impact on turnover of these items, Oricon again points out, produces a dramatic reduction in the already very low mol. Based on Istat data for 2019, the average Gross Operating Margin (Mol) for companies in the sector was around 5.5% of the value of production, compared to 13% for bars and 10.5% for restaurants. Between the first pandemic and the overall 15% increase in raw material, energy and packaging costs, Oricon estimates that companies are currently working with a negative margin of over 10 points. With forecasts of a deterioration in the next quarter. In addition to this already very difficult picture, there are the concerns of the sector for the effects that the crisis generated by inflation and reduced spending capacity could have on manufacturing and, in turn, on company canteens and schools.

“The surge in energy bills, together with increases in raw materials, transport and packaging materials – warns Carlo Scarsciotti, president of Oricon – Collective Catering and Nutrition Observatory – are suffocating the sector which, an almost unique case in the sector of essential public services, cannot by law distribute the increase in costs on the final price of the contracted service. Up to now, companies in the canteen sector have absorbed the increases in supply prices, but this has had a dramatic impact on the gross operating margin, which is already narrow and still suffering from the pandemic that has destroyed significant market shares. The situation is no longer sustainable: from our analysis for numerous catering companies, especially SMEs, the exit from the market by the end of the year is an option more than close, because the revenues are no longer able to cover the costs of production. Thousands of jobs are at risk, as well as the provision of essential services such as school canteens ”, says Scarsciotti.

“If manufacturing companies close in January, corporate catering will be reduced again, which has already lost 1/5 of its production due to smartworking; the same is true if schools do not teach lessons due to lack of heating or the difficulty in coping with exorbitant gas bills. All this – he continues – could lead us back into the dramatic situation that we had to face in the pandemic, with massive recourse to layoffs. Certainly companies will have negative balance sheets and this will lead to decreases in employment, zero investment and innovation ”.

“The school canteen – continues President Scarsciotti – represents an essential and precious service, especially at a time when families are struggling to make ends meet. School canteens ensure a complete, healthy and balanced meal for children and young people. The Government must protect, not only the superbonus, energy-intensive companies and construction but above all the health and food education of children, supporting collective catering companies for the essential role they play in the community.. Poor nutrition from adolescence will worsen health care spending in the future. We ask the Government to take care of and worry about the future and to safeguard the canteens “, concludes the president of Oricon who, in order to support companies in the sector, asks for” a mandatory regime for revising prices upon the occurrence of particular conditions of an objective nature, such as price increases. which we are witnessing, which cannot be foreseen at the time of formulating the offer. This adjustment must in no way fall on the final consumer and on families “.

Furthermore, Oricon asks that “a ‘standard tender’ be prepared that indicates an appropriate auction base, that is to say a price of the service adequate to the basic requests. greater value to services or elements that have nothing to do with the meal and its administration and that tenders are drawn up entrusted with logic that reward the design quality of companies where the economic component is predefined and not subject to discounts “.

Finally, the Observatory asks, “the institution of the concession for the assignment of school meals should be used only in cases in which the competent bodies provide coverage and solutions for the solvency problems of families in poverty”.