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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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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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/

 

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Thread does Disney!

Last month we talked about Britain’s second city and its new food establishments, this month, one of our team went to Florida, sampling the delights of Disney. It’s an intoxicating experience on many levels – but we wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t pass some comment on the food, the style and the innovation; some of which could be translated into other environments.

“The first thing I couldn’t help but be impressed with was simply the range of food and beverage available.  Even at a quick, first glance there is just something for everyone; from fast food outlets to table service restaurants, fine dining menus to an unlimited array of snacks and drinks for food on the go. Providing this level of choice takes structure, robust procurement processes, and great customer service, and it’s evident that the organisation and processes implemented within each park are designed to ensure a smooth and efficient service at all times.

The majority of queues within the counter service restaurants are managed by people, politely moving guests into the shortest line and providing a friendly face and a “pause” you welcome rather than are frustrated by. The menus, although somewhat limited, are designed to be easy to read and order and the meal packages are clearly displayed making food selection speedy and easy. Given the volumes of customers going through each outlet, the payment process has been streamlined with guests being able to scan their Magic Bands (wristbands) which are linked to a prepaid dining package or the guests’ credit card.

In addition to efficient processes, product clarity and great customer service, Disney do theming very well as you might imagine! Creating the environment that takes your senses out of the ordinary or away from your expectations. When booked into the Italian Restaurant Mama Melrose, we were met by authentic music, menus and décor.  There are certainly no half measures, the staff (known as cast members) were in character, knowledgeable about the menus and the numerous Disney dining packages that guests had purchased.

All members of staff are referred to as cast members as Disney see them as an integral part of your experience and the “show” that is Disney.  The idea being that they are part of a team, no one job role is more important than another, and each has a part to play at each stage of the customer journey. In addition, we noticed that there are a refreshing number of older cast members throughout the parks.  The sprightly concierge who greeted us with a friendly good morning each day was well into his 80’s; his experience, style and nature in dealing with families was fantastic and personal.

Within such a large scale destination, the majority of fast food and counter service restaurants used disposable plates, bowls, cups and cutlery to provide options for customers to enjoy food inside or outside, and to reduce costs of washing up.  Recycling bins for cans and bottles were located around each park but all other rubbish was simply placed within one large rubbish bin.  When questioned about their recycling policy, the hotel advised that all rubbish is taken to a depot and sorted into the appropriate categories by the State of Florida.  This provides a quicker and easier option for guests but we wondered if such limited recycling sends the right message to us, and to our children in such a sustainability conscious world?

It’s common knowledge that Disney strive to give their guests the best possible experience but how do they react when things don’t go to plan?  On one occasion, we were left waiting one hour for our dinner in a table service restaurant which then made us late for the firework display. After voicing our frustrations, we were apologised to by three different members of staff numerous times and given a free fast pass voucher, which allowed us to bypass the queue at any attraction within the Magic Kingdom in an effort to give us at least some of our time back.

We had a magical holiday and despite it being a very costly adventure, the perceived value for money, and our overall experience was enhanced by the high level of service and enthusiasm that the Disney cast members seem to have in abundance.  A smile, a show and a sprinkling of fairy dust – a learning point for hospitality businesses everywhere!”

UK's second city

Second city suppers

While the team travel all over the country, Birmingham is the closest city to “home” for the majority of them and as such, the new restaurant, café and bar openings are always a hot topic in our office!

The last year has seen the openings of some great new eateries in England’s second city – not just those within the major developments of Grand Central (Leon, Pho, Square Pie and Tortilla among others) and Resorts World (High Line, Robata, Sports Bar, Sky Bar as well as mainstream brands Nando’s, TGI’s, GBK and Pizza Express) but also great independents all over the city.

From the messy and atmospheric Nosh & Quaff, tapping into 2015’s biggest food trend – the single dish (ish!) restaurant – to the popular with the work crowd Bodega, the Botanist, Cosy Club, Gas Street Social and Marmalade. They’re each using the city’s quietly grand architecture (the old Midland Bank and the REP Theatre among them) to be the perfect environment for their all day dining and drinking options.

Closer to our homes, we’ve seen the introduction of Meatcure, Coffee Architects, Bourbon Smokehouse and 33 The Scullery. Many of them have included “unlimited” options, incentives to dwell, and impressive kids menus; understanding the real shift we have seen in family and group dining in recent years and often outside “normal” meal times.

And it doesn’t stop there. 2016 has already seen the opening of Adam’s, Friska, Zizzi at Brindleyplace and we have Gaucho’s little brother – CAU, the Alchemist, Viva Brazil and Le Bistrot Pierre and a new Hotel du Vin yet to come. There really are too many hotspots, and too little time for us food lovers to get to them all!

The biggest changes we’re expecting to see come in the forms of the technology driven to service these restaurants; from Deliveroo to Quikr payment options, it’s likely to be the significant disruption in the catering sector in 2016. Plus, we’ve heard on the grapevine that Hawaiian food “poke” and Philippine cuisine will be hot this year, falafel will be appearing as vegetables in premium restaurants and menu kits from your favourite restaurants will be available for purchase. We can’t wait!

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Thread enjoys Regatta!

The port of Dartmouth welcomed thousands of visitors to the 171st Royal Regatta this summer. Thread team enjoyed a fun packed week experiencing the delights of numerous air shows, crabbing competitions, dinghy racing and rowing, with shopping and running events woven in between. Fabulous live music from the bandstand delighted spectators while they sampled a variety of street food. This soon became a piece of foodie research The Thread Team relished with enthusiasm!

The highlight of our experience was watching The Royal Navy display with The RNLI- Thread’s chosen charity. We continue to make donations throughout the year to support the vital part they play in saving lives. The RNLI have launched a new fund raising initiative in recognition of the many volunteers who risk their lives (and often their supper!) when they get called out to sea in an emergency. If you would like to support this worthy cause, please visit: rnli.org/howtosupportus/Pages/How-to-support-us.aspx and see how you can help.

 

 

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Sue sets the pace on Two Castles Run

The 33rd Two Castles Run was held last Sunday and completed by our very own Business Support and Conference Specialist, Sue Jenkins. The 10k run started at the breathtaking Warwick Castle and finished at historic Kenilworth Castle. The race organised by the Kenilworth Rotary Club with the help of Leamington Cycling and Athletics Club, attracted 4,000 runners.

The Two Castles Run has a reputation of one of the best and classic 10k runs in the country as well as raising over £100,000 for charity. Sue completed the run in a personal best time of 49 minutes and 31 seconds.

Sue has now begun training for her next challenge which is the Oxford Half Marathon in October and we wish her the best of luck!

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Thread’s chosen charity!

We’re delighted to announce our chosen charity, RNLI.

As keen sailors, Sally and her family enjoy holidays in Dartmouth. So when we are not weaving our magic at work, we enjoy the fresh air and short sea trips to local Devon harbours. Sally is keen to support the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) as Thread’s chosen charity. Last year the RNLI rescued an average of 24 people every day, and that wouldn’t be possible without donations.

The company makes regular donations to their appeals, starting with their May Day campaign #YellowWelly this year, which from 1-4 May will celebrate the lifesaving work of their lifeboat crews. The fundraising supports the maintenance of vessels, training for new recruits and uniform provision for the rescue teams.

If you’d like to make a donation to this wonderful cause, please visit https://rnli.org/howtosupportus/getinvolved/fundraising-for-us/Pages/mayday-donate-now.aspx

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