K-12 Schools business: $1.67 billion (estimated 11% of company total)
Compass operates in the K-12 market in the U.S. primarily through its Chartwells K12 division, with the CulinArt and Flik units operating dining in private and independent schools. Because Compass’ fiscal year runs through the end of September, the main impact of COVID on K-12 business in fiscal 2020 had largely been confined to the March-May period of the 2019-2020 school year and the early weeks of the 2020-2021 school year while fiscal 2021 was completely impacted by COVID. Hence, FM estimates that the company’s K-12 business saw a modest falloff in fiscal 2021 reflected by its reported overall decrease in Education business (which includes college/university as well as K-12) from $3.586 billion in fiscal 2020 to $3.344 billion in fiscal 2021.
K-12 Schools business: $1.25 billion (estimated 16% of company total)
Sodexo’s Education business in North America, which includes both college and K-12 operations, was down 15.9% for the 2021 fiscal year but up a robust 47.6% in the second half, when the comparison was to the first six months of the COVID outbreak. “Whereas the return to school and universities was slow in the second and third quarters [i.e., Dec. 2020-May 2021] relative to Europe,” the company’s annual report noted, “all sites reopened for the start of the new academic year in August .”
K-12 Schools business: $1.09 billion (estimated 16% of U.S. Food & Support Services unit total)
Aramark’s Education business (reflecting both K-12 and college/university) halved its decline rate from the 25.2% drop it posted in fiscal 2020 to just 12.1% in fiscal 2021. Like the other two “Big Three” firms, Aramark’s fiscal year launches in early fall, beginning in October and stretching through the following September, which means that 2021 mostly covered the bulk of the COVID-impacted 2020-21 school year. In its 2021 annual report, Aramark noted that the return of students and educators to in-person classes in both K-12 and Higher Education had a positive effect on revenues, with K-12 continuing to benefit from participation in universal government-sponsored meal programs.
Southwest Foodservice Excellence
K-12 Schools business: $483 million (100% of company total)
The largest K-12 specialist in the country and the 10th largest company on the 2022 FM Top 50 saw business increase 5% last year by working with client districts to create dining experiences that provide a sense of normalcy and a return to pre-COVID days while still prioritizing food and individual safety. It included rolling out new food truck concepts and partnering with client districts to earn over $3.5 million in grant funds to purchase new equipment, service supplies and additional fresh fruits and vegetables for students. SFE also continues to modify menus as needed to offer take home, in-classroom and in-café meal options.
Elior North America
K-12 Schools business: $331 million (23% of company total)
Elior’s K12 By Elior unit basically stayed even in 2021, though its share of the total company business fell from 27% to 23%.
SAGE Dining Services Inc.
K-12 Schools business: $225 million (90% of company total)
Unlike the others on this list of companies operating in the K-12 market, SAGE primarily serves the private rather than the public school market with its well-developed, customized and tech-intensive approach that accords with this market’s preferences.
Whitsons Culinary Group
K-2 Schools business: $158 million (71% of company total)
Whitsons’ K-12 business dropped from 80% of revenues to 71% in 2021, while the company as a whole saw a 6.7% overall increase. Still, it was a year of robust activity in the school market as the company worked hard to develop food service options to keep students nourished and safe under pandemic-regulated conditions and was ready to support client districts as they reopened for the 2021-22 school year with appealing new menu items and serving methods. With the Seamless Summer Option extended through June 2022, it also rolled out a series of promotions such as pop-up shops, outdoor mobile kiosks and the Tastefully Plated line of grab and go meals.
Opaa! Food Management Inc.
K-12 Schools business: $150 million(e) (100% of company total)
Opaa! today operates in more than 800 schools in more than 250 public school districts across seven Midwestern states, with the highest concentration being in Missouri and Kansas, according to its website. The company offers its client districts a comprehensive array of K-12 meal services, including catering and nutrition education in addition to traditional breakfast, lunch and after-school snack offerings.
The Nutrition Group
K-12 Schools business: $114.66 million (78% of company total)
After experiencing a nearly 40% drop in K-12 revenues in 2020, Nutrition Group rebounded smartly in 2021 with a 33% increase despite the continuing limitations imposed by the ongoing pandemic, deploying strategies like creating standardized menus that let it accurately project needs and usage, providing options and tools to assist districts to find the most advantageous way to provide meals to students, remaining in daily communication with vendors and manufacturers to manages supply needs and using its network of adjoining client districts to optimize product and staff availability usage among them.