First Baptist Church of Orlando (Orlando, FL)
A 2013 “Good Steward” Award winner in the area of food service, First Baptist Church of Orlando (Orlando, FL) serves more than 250,000 meals a year and generates in excess of $1.6 million in self-sustaining revenue.
As Hospitality Director Marcus White details, the church’s kitchen is 4,000 square feet, with an additional 25,000 square feet of designated dining space. A full-service café — with seating for 100 — is also onsite, as is plenty of meeting and small event space. “Our church (which has a 5,000-seat sanctuary) lends itself to lots of conference and concert events that our Food Service Ministry is usually heavily involved in,” he says, citing the example of the four-day annual Exponential Conference, which attracts more than 4,000 church planters from all of the world. “We handle many of their dining needs,” he points out.
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You serve more than 250,000 meals a year at FBC Orlando. Is that three meals a day? Are you also serving school children? Catering events?
White: Our services include a cafeteria for 1,000-student private school, café service five days a week for our 400+ church staff and guests, as well as banquets, weddings, funerals receptions, conventions, conferences and more.
Is the $1.6 million in revenue driven by one type of food outreach versus others?
White: We try to keep the cost to the guest as low as possible for the cafeteria and for the Wednesday Night Fellowship dinner, usually resulting in a small loss. Thus, our banquets (especially our outside group events) are typically our driving revenue source which financially supports the other areas of operations we have.
Last year was a challenging year for our church and other organizations in our community which use our Food Service Ministry’s services. That forced our ministry to be creative in finding ways to still host the events, but save the ministries money so they can still do the events.
As you’re driving revenue, how are you also keeping costs down in your food service ministry?
White: This question is best answered in categories.First, one major way that we control costs is through the intentional efforts of hiring and using paid Christian professionals to lead and manager our Food Service Ministry. This allows us to put systems in place that help us control costs, such as proper training and ordering procedures.
We also use a tremendous amount of line-level volunteers for our kitchen and other areas of labor needs, including the use of unpaid interns from a local culinary school, as well as interns from various job training programs in Central Florida.
By far, our best area of cost controls is through our purchases. We believe strongly that every church should be a part of a group purchasing organization (GPO). We highly recommend Navigator, the company we use. Being a part of their buying power has our saved our ministry more than $400,000 in the last nine years compared to our previous invoice pricing. It has also provided us with more than $60,000 in rebates that we wouldn’t qualify for, or have the time to file for, on our own. Those figures are just the savings we’ve seen in the Food Service Ministry; the GPO program also allows for savings throughout the rest of the church’s purchases.
I know you feel strongly that a food service ministry is best served by being self-sustaining, financially. Can you talk a little more about that?
White: Every church has different goals and intentions for the use of their Food Services. Some churches prefer to only charge the food cost to the ministry and will cover the labor and other expenses from the main budget. Other churches will try to cover the food and labor only.
We believe strongly that, with our church and the size of our Food Service Ministry (and potential for even more growth), our goal is to cover all expenses for the entire ministry, including equipment, facilities costs, admin costs and the rest of the overhead — all from the revenue gained from hosting events. This has been the goal we have been striving towards for the last eight to 10 years. Each year, we get a little closer to attaining it by slightly raising our prices and increasing our services and events.
Achieving this goal is truly a win-win for everyone. The church gets to have a support ministry on campus that allows its in-house ministries, members and guests to host high-quality events. At the same time, we’re able to provide outreach services and events to our community — excellent, high-end banquet hotel-quality services at non-profit pricing.
Most important, the many guests who come to those events often come to our church campus for the first time, and then consider coming to church on Sundays. This makes the Food Service Ministry another doorway into the life of our church.
— Reporting by RaeAnn Slaybaugh