People eat away from home for different reasons, and these reasons account for the difference between commercial and non-commercial food service. Commercial food service, accounting for roughly 77 percent of eating-out dollars, mainly consists of fast food and full service restaurants. The remaining 23 percent is spent eating in school cafeterias, corporate dining rooms, hospital cafeterias and other such places that make up non-commercial food service.

How They are Funded

The website points out that commercial food service operations are normally for-profit. They depend upon profits to keep them in business. Both fast food and fine dining eateries must use financial expertise to be viable. For fast food places that means turning out limited menu items at a rapid pace. Food must be good and it must be quick. If either of these criteria is not met, the business will probably fail. Non-commercial food service is slightly different. If the organization where they are located benefits from its operation, the institution may subsidize the business.

Ownership of the Businesses

Commercial eateries are usually either independently –owned or are part of a chain. In the case of corporate-owned chain fast food restaurants, they operate with branded menu items and floor plans. For instance, you can expect the bathrooms at most Burger King Restaurants to be located in the same part of the business, and you know that you will be able to get their signature sandwich. Full-service restaurants are sometimes owned by chains as well, and these operations, as well as the independent restaurant, must consider not only the food quality and service, but the dining experience. Sometimes a non-profit organization such as a school or museum owns the dining establishment with which it is affiliated. This kind of arrangement can be seen at the College of the Ozarks in Branson, Missouri, where the college operates a restaurant both as a teaching opportunity and as a way to support the school.

Differing Focus

The dining experience, sometimes a combination of food quality, food presentation and ambiance, is a prime consideration of commercial food service establishments. Non-commercial operations are concerned with putting forth a good tasting product in a short time because the consumer in these places is generally on a schedule. Some of the fast food and chain restaurants are showing up in traditionally non-commercial areas such as hospitals and schools. Some large hospitals, for instance, feature a Starbucks Coffee Shop. In these cases, the commercial operations take their cue from the non-commercial and provide rapid and easy access building plans. Sysco and Marriott are corporations that specialize in large, “streamlined” non-commercial food service. Non-commercial services are learning from the commercial as well; many hospital and corporate dining rooms are employing chefs and turning out high-quality food in areas planned to enhance the dining experience such as terraced outdoor dining spots.

The Foodservice blog brings the differences in the two services down to this: consumers have an expectation of food quality and service in accordance with where they eat. If the service does not meet the expectation, it will not survive. Meeting that customer expectation is what defines the differences in commercial and non-commercial food service.

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