Fuel-Food-460x259

Beyond the fuel of the workforce…

On the official first day of Spring, the time for all things centred around “new”, “revival” and “optimism”, we have taken a fresh look at workplace dining. While there was a time when foodservice provision within the workplace was a fairly basic additional function, today the quality, value and innovation in the workplace restaurant, kiosk, café, or bistro is seen as directly impacting the recruitment, retention and engagement of employees for many organisations.

Employee engagement has been big news for possibly the last ten years, but “wellbeing” has been the buzzword of the last few, so it was only a matter of time before foodservice contracts were linked in to wellbeing promotions, efforts and employee benefits. Food may have been historically seen by employers as a requirement for fuelling a productive workforce, but it has remained emotional rather than functional for many of the end users of the service. The question today’s companies must ask themselves is whether they are aiming for food service to be a real welfare provision and benefit for their staff (and as such continually impress their prospects and staff) or whether they are primarily delivering a simple function – and some commercial benefit – through their catering contract? To be clear, we positively encourage and support clients to gain commercial improvements and introduce cost saving initiatives, to revisit operational methods and costs of delivery – but those companies with a sustainable quality approach, and with consumer led ideas – are the most successful at engaging their user and ultimately managing a more cost effective and valued service to their teams.

The companies with the most success at delivering the staff dining facilities are those with caterers who consider their menus and dishes from a regional, or even better – local, perspective and by demographic. Understanding not only the job that the employees are undertaking while on site but also their age group, family status, likely supermarket preferences and eating habits at home for example enables great operators to sell consumers what they want, where and when they want it. They consider how they’re eating all day not just at the point at which they may visit the workplace facility and they sell the right things according to what they may be looking for at that time. Those companies that are really successful – are the ones that work in partnership with their caterer – allow them access to the end user to promote offers and ideas in a way that adds value to the consumer, engaging in cookery classes and regular food forums, selling ingredient baskets for the emergency family supper complete with the recipe to recreate at home.

With all this to bear in mind, workplace dining operators have a difficult job on their hands. Competition in the form of off-site retail outlets close to, or en route to, workplaces is high and food-to-go is now seen as one of the most competitive segments of the eating out market. It has benefitted from a workforce that are increasingly time pressured but with higher expectations and greater knowledge of cuisines, quality and provenance than ever before, along with growing accessibility for many (through value, availability of diet specific and allergen free goods for example).

Big Hospitality recently implied that yet more opportunities in this sector are to be had by operators who execute with “conscious consumerism” and “ultra-convenience” at the forefront of their mind. In the USA, Silicon Valley corporates are already providing this in the form of nourishment on demand through devices such as LeanBox (smart fridges with grain boxes, salmon and greens type dishes) or services such as a virtual cafeteria with a digital menu of multiple cuisines akin to Deliveroo, that is then delivered to the workplace for each individual employee.

LeanBox-We-want-to-change-the-way-the-American-workforce-eats_wrbm_large

In the UK, workplace restaurants have been slower to address remaining issues of the quality of food available and payment systems in these new vending formats, and to implement them, and are still reliant on traditional counter service styles.  However, they have been quicker to look at ways to provide popular and new flavours and cuisines and as such, we are still seeing variations on street food being evolved for workplace restaurants to compete with the pop-up markets in each city, town and even some out of town locations.

The Thread team have recently supported several repurposing projects of estate architecture that sees a move to more streamlined café and micro-market offers which are more labour efficient and lends itself easily to quick and healthy food on the go solutions.  We are seeing some consumer kick back away from high street branded coffee offers by workplace caterers allowing those consumers with an appreciation to choose their own artisan coffee blends and premium leaf teas through tastings and voting/focus groups. The desired choices can then be selected across national contracts to suit regional and varied tastes within a budget that will support multiple purchases. This level of personalisation across national catering contracts ensures happy consumers and can be utilised by the client as an area of engagement with employees.

coffee-tasting

We have also seen larger caterers take a more bespoke approach and combine the might of their purchasing power and their ability to scale to deliver a more tailored solution to achieve great success for the end consumer and the employer – but there is still a long way to go. We believe companies and caterers need to work together to find capacity to ensure the offer on site is meeting the modern employee expectations around global food influences with quality of delivery – however simple the offer may be. Ultimately the more users of the workplace dining environment there are, the more the higher level of sales will sustain a more cost effective or profitable solution for the company.

Finally, with global companies announcing head count reduction more regularly than we would like, it may be that companies could go beyond using their foodservice provision as a benefit for employees, and also look to use their foodservice spaces better for wider collaborations such as art fairs, local markets or even food entertainment  (in the style of Lane7 or Flight Club or Bounce),  rest areas or relax/ research and meeting space to help futureproof the estate to accommodate potential workforce changes or reductions or to increase occupancy of the space outside of “usual” hours. For the younger generations, this more meaningful provision of facilities to encourage playful collaboration is an attractive feature and could have a direct impact on the recruitment, retention and engagement of employees.

birthday-cupcakes - thread

Happy birthday to us!

As we celebrate our fourth birthday this month, we’ve been thinking about the successes and
activities of the last year and it’s safe to say 2018 was our busiest year yet!

After being appointed to the London Universities Purchasing Consortium catering services
framework, we were delighted to attend their launch event at Student Central in April. The event
was a real opportunity for us to present our thoughts on the challenges with today’s often
transactional contracts which we believe should instead be an opportunity for transformational
partnerships with suppliers.

One of our major projects last year was a feasibility study to modernise a high-volume national
estate portfolio and its associated catering offer. As with many businesses change comes almost
quarterly with today’s dynamic markets and operating conditions, so the aim was to first evaluate
the estate and then the costs, benefits and opportunity to repurpose some parts of it over a finite
period to create a new catering provision architecture and food and beverage offer that will
continue to be modern and desirable to the various workforce segments, but also deliver optimum efficiency through the contract.

Other key projects the team have been involved in have included catering contract reviews at several universities, including one where a critical supplier dispute was settled; leading a project with a national utilities provider to create and implement new ways of working to collaborate with suppliers in the most innovative ways yet (watch this space!); delivering customer experience and touchpoint mapping particularly related to food service kiosks and hospitality of stadia and arenas and finally, supporting a feasibility study with elements of café menu design relating to a major corporate headquarters move to Canary Wharf.

We’re really proud that in keeping with our company and personal values, we have this year also made several donations to a local food bank to ensure that Thread Consultancy is continually giving something back to the community in a way that is tangible to them, and meaningful to us. We’re excited about what the next year has in store!

holly and ivy

Before you go on your Christmas break…

The Thread Consultancy team would like to wish all our clients, suppliers and prospects a fabulous Christmas and say a big thank you for either working with us or for us in 2018. We have had another incredibly busy year, which we’ll review upon our “birthday” in February, but in the meantime, eat, drink and be merry!

We’re pleased to say that this year we have donated to Stratford Upon Avon Food Bank – remembering how needing basic food is an essential requirement for some families, as many of us enjoy wonderful hospitality with loved ones this Christmas.

 

Wanderers Football Team

You’re only as good as your last game or gig!

Today’s sporting arenas and stadia are well known destination venues. Consumer expectations as a result are for far more appealing fare than the historic pie and a pint, or traditional hospitality pre or post match or concert. Thanks to our widespread venue expertise, and delivery of solutions for global music and sporting arenas, we’re able to enhance customer experiences with the application of our touchpoint model, implementation of robust contract management programmes and ongoing auditing capability for clients in this area of the leisure sector.

Our love of sporting events, and football in particular, also extends to us once again investing in our local community. This year we will sponsor local U13s junior football team, Wellesbourne Wanderers FC, as they make their way up the Mid Warwickshire Boys league with super young talent, an excellent display of team work and looking good (and warmer!) in their jackets.

They continue to be the team to beat in their Warwickshire age band and we look forward to them going from strength to strength this season.

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Sustainability focus can now deliver a reduced spend for supplier AND customer

According to the National Restaurant Association’s 2018 State of Restaurant Sustainability report, improving sustainability within foodservice environments can deliver a reduced spend of around 20%. This is a figure now taken more seriously by the financiers and operators. We’ve moved on from changing front of house light bulbs and reducing unnecessary energy use in commercial kitchens to incorporating a responsible approach and a circular economy into production and operations where possible.

Reportedly largely as a result of David Attenborough’s recent documentary series, the ongoing use of plastics, styrofoam and other non-recyclable packaging is out of favour with most of the population. While suitable alternatives are not yet available for everything, cafes and restaurants can do a number of things to support change that can reduce cost for the supplier and consumer alike, such as promote campaigns that offer incentives for using refillable (and often branded) containers, remove single use plastic disposables, talk to suppliers about packaging and transportation options, and increase provision of water fountains and reusable water bottles.

From an equipment perspective, operators can consider their purchases and their ratings with regard to energy efficiency, waste management and water usage, particularly with regard to large items such as refrigerators, dishwashers and low flush toilets. Communicating the changes being made, and the impacts they are having on the local environment can also help to meet one of the customer expectations of recent years – helping consumers to minimise their environmental impact without a significant change to their own personal environment. We think that’s win-win.

LUPC logo Suzanne

Thread appointed to London Universities Purchasing Consortium framework

Thread were delighted to be appointed to the LUPC framework for catering consultancy services in late 2017 following a multi-part process to source the best expertise and value.

The Purchasing Consortium’s aim is to secure best possible value for their Members in the procurement of goods and services, without causing harm to others. They work collaboratively with other higher education purchasing consortia in the UK to manage more than 100 EU-compliant framework agreements.

When food is fuel rather than fun...

Thinking about food as fuel

For many of us, good quality food and nutrition are such a part of life, we can almost take them for granted. We enjoy so much, and can be fussy about our options, we forget that food is at it’s most basic level fuel to support the mechanics of our bodies.
Since reading about the devastating food crisis in East Africa, and the millions of families facing starvation due to the droughts we felt the need to contribute in some way. Thread have started regularly supporting Oxfam’s appeal to help provide life-saving support in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia with our charity donations in 2017.
This action got us to thinking about the people living below the poverty line in the UK (it’s 1 in 5 people now) and in particular to those in in our local area. After some research, we found that Stratford-upon-Avon foodbank is focussed upon helping local people in crisis. Their belief that “We don’t think anyone in our community should have to face going hungry” really resonates with the Thread team, so we support them with donations to help them provide nutritionally balanced emergency food and support to local people who’ve been referred to them as in crisis.
Sally Davis said “Thread Consultancy prides itself on creating storylines for others; connecting our beliefs with positive actions. We wanted to be involved with both of these charities to be able to share the benefits we see that food brings to us with others less fortunate than ourselves.”
Both Oxfam and the Foodbank rely heavily on the volunteers, time and donations and we’re proud to be doing our bit to support their movements and appeals.
If you’d like to know more, see:
http://www.oxfam.org.uk/what-we-do/emergency-response/east-africa-food-crisis
https://stratforduponavon.foodbank.org.uk/

 

2016-17-clock

2016 – the year in review

Wow, what a year 2016 has been. Who would have predicted when we celebrated our 1st birthday in February that we’d end the year discussing negotiations for Brexit and Donald Trump’s impending Presidency? To say it’s been surprising is an understatement, but we’ve had plenty of more positive news within Thread!

In addition to being retained by all of 2015’s clients, we were commissioned in the Spring by two major new clients; one in the real estate sector and the other in Higher Education, both of whom have benefitted from unprecedented (by them) cost savings as a result of strategic reviews of their kitchen/front of house facilities and catering contract provision. We have managed one of the largest procurement projects in the Facilities Management sector, including a new contract for a utilities company worth £6 million per year for five years. We’ve also supported a client in the leisure sector tendering for an external contract for the very first time; guiding them through a major procurement process against global competition to reach the final stage of the process. This project delivered a strategic re-positioning and evolution of their brand and values as well as strategic planning and advice during each stage of their response.

We’ve had a new recruit join us – Jayne Gillitt – as our project coordinator, responsible for the coordination of all our KPI monitoring and collation and evaluation of in-house quality audits for one of our major clients.

On top of all that, we have managed to squeeze in 35 of our own quality audits across the country for a variety of clients and have delivered multiple training sessions for their teams as a result!

rnli-returns-to-dartmouth

Our love of water…

In addition to my personal love of food, some other things are close to my heart including sailing, the coast and Dartmouth in particular. I regularly make a donation to the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) whose volunteer crews are always on call; putting their lives on hold to be ready to save lives at a moment’s notice. As I’m keen on boating, to support them to ensure they have the resources they need to do their work.

This year, donations are going toward funding a new Shannon class lifeboat. As part of the relief fleet, the new Shannon will stand in for other boats that need repairs or maintenance around our coasts, where 22 people are rescued every single day.

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