BaxterStorey emerge victorious at new catering Audit Awards

Many of our clients retain us to undertake regular audits of their catering facilities across a national portfolio. We devised an approach to promote competitive behaviours from on-site teams, and deliver ongoing attention and improvement for the client organisation management teams. And so, our annual catering audit awards were born and BaxterStorey were victorious in 2022.

We undertake around 40 catering audits each year. We collate scores and learnings to ensure high standards of service are maintained and changes can be implemented for continuous improvement. We review the results and award teams for both highest marks and biggest improvements. This year’s BaxterStorey winners were delighted with their Dining Out voucher prizes!

Darren Gilbertson, Accounts Director. BaxterStorey had this to say about the team’s success,

Achieving the awards of best site and most improved site is a testament to the hard work and effort of our teams who have worked hard to deliver for our customers across the past year ensuring that fresh food, coffee and customer service is at the heart of everything we do.

Photo by Maximalfocus on Unsplash

Is it simple pseudoscience or “lucky” number eight for our catering experts?

In pseudoscience Pythagorean numerology the number eight represents victory, prosperity and overcoming. In Chinese culture, eight is thought to be a lucky number because the number broadens gradually representing becoming prosperous. But what’s this got to do with our food and drink consultancy?

Well, we celebrated our eighth birthday this Spring. In the last year, we have supported our clients to overcome many of the challenges Covid presented to hospitality and catering, have encouraged client teams to be victorious in our Audit Awards and have grown our client base significantly.

New levels of support post-Covid

Covid challenged the industry in many ways, impacting physical footfall, cleaning costs and materials and the supply chain, and driving forward new ways of working. We enjoyed seeing catering propositions being enhanced and directly funded by organisations keen to entice their workforce back to the office and support their teams during cost of living challenges.  We pride ourselves on listening to all of the information before crafting our strategic recommendations. This year this incorporated hosting a virtual workshop with a night shift warehouse team at 10pm. If we had requested this three years ago, it would have been considered unusual, but our use of Microsoft Teams and other solutions meant we could gather invaluable feedback from a major proportion of a company’s workforce without needing to travel all over the country overnight.

Client awards introduced to raise standards

Our new Audit Awards provided a chance for competitive teams across our client base to secure prizes for the highest mark, with the supplier team from BaxterStorey announced the victors at Stockport in 2022.

New clients seeking improvement to their employee catering facilities

This year has seen Thread add a national television broadcaster and an energy facility to our client base for catering and hospitality advice.  As with many clients, they’re keen to ensure their employee facilities meet market and consumer expectations, and require review, analysis and a strategy for future services. 

We are six!

A Quick insight into Thread’s latest activities now we are six ….

Celebrating six years supporting businesses with their catering and hospitality challenges. From catering space planning and office relocation, to procurement, quality audits and cost reduction strategies, alongside our colleagues and clients we have navigated our way through a very demanding year.

In keeping with our company values we have continued to make donations to the local foodbank and are proud to provide a few hours of voluntary support to the NHS to ensure we give back to the local community.

We’re expanding our skill set with nutrition advice and planning a number of refurbishment and cost reduction projects for implementation in the spring. As hospitality businesses plan to reopen again we look forward to supporting them with our clients; to develop sustainable business models going forward – we’re excited about the year ahead!

Innovation, confidence AND compliance in the return to “normal” amidst COVID-19 planning

As returning to workplaces and a “new normal” starts to feel within our grasp, many of our catering and hospitality providers, and corporate clients who select them as their supplier, are reconfiguring spaces and planning how to make their operations viable and safe for workers and customers. I always say we like to think we’re different at Thread, and one of the reasons why is our desire to leave a lasting legacy with the people IN the organisations we work with, not only positive impacts for those leading them, and that’s about providing them with additional expertise, knowledge and confidence in what they do.

This investment in people is critical to give confidence in getting people back into workplaces and social environments, so I am delighted to see that international provider of food hygiene, health and safety advice – Common Sense Compliance – who I have worked with for many years have launched a specific training programme to give catering suppliers and corporate procurement teams confidence in the practical steps that they are taking to get operations open. They’ve developed industry specific COVID-19 policies and toolkits, and can deliver training via webinar to operational teams. And as Environmental Health Professionals, they can also review and evaluate any existing COVID-19 policies or plans you may have started developing to ensure they’re compliant – and certify them to give greater assurance. I’ve gone so far as to endorse their training, their audit and their policy review and certification services, so if you would find this valuable, contact me directly.

This is just one of the simple, effective and speedy mechanics that will help keep the hospitality industry moving and trading in line with government lifting of restrictions as they happen.  Some others I have found inspiring are:

  • The Grand Outdoor Café campaign – to encourage landlords and governments to be flexible on licencing and demise regulations to enable operators to use outdoor space to enable greater social distancing and optimise capacity (and profitability) for food & beverage operators.
  • Designer Deliveries – with chefs like Adam Handling initiating his “Hame” delivery service of high end dishes that travel better than some of his restaurant concepts but meet the expectations of his diners, will we see greater flexibility in future from the Michelin and premium dining market? Gymkhana, Hakkasan and Hide are all offering similar take out options already, who will follow….
  • Contactless egg and milk vending machines at local farms – they’ve been around since long before the outbreak but have come into their own in recent weeks; I hope that noticing the difference in quality will encourage locals to continue to source this way regularly.
  • Our local Warwickshire Gin company adding hand sanitiser to its production line – diversifying to support the challenges in demand, and benefit from a new revenue stream while out of home alcohol sales are at their lowest.
  • Creation and sending of “care packages” to friends and family – from craft breweries to George & Joseph Cheesemongers Self Isolation Survival Kit – I am sure additional revenue streams for some businesses will continue long after the pandemic has stabilised.  

When will the hospitality industry be able to do what it does best?

As borders continue to close and not just the UK, but the world takes an unexpected “time out”, we are thinking about all of those who are fighting the war against COVID-19 (including the blue light services, frontline NHS staff and teachers caring for key worker families), but also those fighting to keep their hospitality businesses afloat and alive until the world settles once more.

We are fortunate at Thread Consultancy that our client portfolio is broad and diverse, and many are still in need of our time and services. We are therefore running business as usual but via remote working of course.

But we understand that the world of hospitality is in extremely challenging times and may need some help during this unprecedented time.  So now we have taken time to steady our own course, we want to reach out to those in the industry to offer support – if you have a basic query, or something you think we can help with remotely, we will be pleased to speak with you free of charge. We must help each other through the tough time, to ensure we survive for the good! 

As British Airways eloquently articulated last week, when the world starts turning once again, once travel is permitted and social distancing measures relaxed, “it will be epic”. Families will be reunited, people will celebrate their friendships, communities will recognise their heroes – and the hospitality industry will do what it does best – provide spaces, comfort and service that surprises, delights and creates wonderful memories.

Supporting community ventures for the long-term

It’s been reported that the emergency food aid sector, including food banks, have been struggling due to the drop in donations from both individuals and the supermarkets in the last two months since COVID-19 took hold of the nation.

We know that the outbreak has made it much more difficult for some families and individuals to either financially or physically access food. As such, we have continued to contribute to our local food bank, as we have for the last three years ensuring some of our success at Thread goes back into the local community. We are incredibly proud of the work that the centre at Stratford Upon Avon is undertaking at this difficult time, including having to move premises to the Methodist Church in Old Town to ensure volunteers and customers remain safe.  

Turkey and trimmings…

This Christmas we want to wish all our clients, friends, colleagues and wider network a wonderful, restful and mindful festive break.

Whether you’re enjoying turkey dinners, Boxing Day feasts or new year celebrations, it is the time of year we really appreciate what amazing food we have access to, and think about others less fortunate than ourselves. As has become tradition, we have made a donation to Stratford-upon-Avon Food Bank this year in place of cards to help local people in crisis. With one in five people in the UK living below the poverty line, the 1000+ emergency food packages for people over the christmas period are invaluable.

We’re proud to be supporting them once again and ensuring a tangible difference in the lives of people within our local community.

Daylesford, Gloucester and now Stratford upon Avon?

We’re talking modern day farm shops. Each of the above locations is based around the principle of family owned spaces run by real foodies. At Daylesford the story began forty years ago, when the family farmland was first turned over to sustainable, organic farming, and Gloucester’s story began forty six years ago (although the current services itself opened in 2014), and in Spring 2019, The Farm opened on my doorstep in Stratford upon Avon.
The concept of a farm shop isn’t new. Fresh produce – vegetables, meat (especially that christmas turkey!), breads and cakes have been expected farm shop fayre for many years. But the modern day farm shops offer so much more; substantial portions of brunch, lunch and supper served in on site cafe or restaurant facilities, delivery services to local addresses and beyond, a showcase and theatres style preparation units for local suppliers and independent wine merchants for tastings and sales. These are unique food destinations; places where provenance is king, artisan produce is expertly displayed and wholesome, home grown, sustainable food is available alongside options for gluten free, dairy free and sugar free – concepts that would have been unheard of for the farm shops of forty years ago!
Farm shops are experiencing a boom in affluent areas, where they appeal to customers who want to know where their food comes from and to support the local community. Consumers are looking for transparency in the products they’re selecting to eat, expecting great quality and freshness as standard, and love the fact that they are helping the environment with low food miles simultaneously. Providing the owners keep their values at the forefront of the decisions they make, and continue to connect their business to their market in a way that supermarkets cannot do, we’re sure they will continue to flourish.

All New Coffee – Six Key Themes for 2019

Coffee drinking has well and truly reached maturity. Recent reports ( and the world’s largest coffee drinker survey results dumbfounded people by concluding that drinking more coffee could significantly improve a person’s life expectancy. When a statement like that hits the consumer market, you know it’s only the beginning.

With that in mind, we’ve scoured the coffee market trends to pull out some key themes, innovations and elements of the “all new coffee” that our clients and prospects could consider to stay up to the minute with consumer expectations;

  1. Coffee menus are the new wine list

Coffee’s huge global audience is only just understanding all the possibilities and diverse elements that coffee has to offer. Appreciation of coffee quality is growing and alongside that, more attention is paid to the provenance and flavour notes rather than simply the roast.

The established production methods of natural, washed and honey are common across the globe, but being a barista is an art form, and some are seeking to explore coffees that are processed in new ways. Variations such as “shaded natural”, “Anaerobic Fermentation”, “Wine Process” and “double-soaked” have also been mentioned in coffee circles.

The specifics of the producing country are also creating differentiators – be that by production, flavour notes or the methods and times of drinking. It would come as little surprise to see Brazil, Vietnam, Columbia, Indonesia and India topping the largest producer rankings but research suggests that the world’s biggest coffee drinkers reside in Finland, Norway, Iceland, Denmark and the Netherlands where coffee consumption behaviour is thought to be quite similar. Market predictions are that the next big coffee flavours will come from the East.

And, much like a wine list price range and expectation, there are some that just set a new bar altogether. For example, in Melbourne a glass goblet of Jose Alfredo coffee will set you back $150 a cup! This exotic bean costs around $US5000 per kilogram and offers complex floral and fruit flavours with notes of lychee, passion fruit, cognac and cocoa.

  1. What’s your flavour?

Buttered coffee – yes you read right. Provider of an energy boost with no caffeine crash, mental alertness and appetite suppression. In America, young men are among the keenest followers of this addition to their coffee, and we think it won’t be long before it hits the UK!

However Starbucks’ top selling flavoured coffees include an iced white chocolate mocha, pumpkin spiced latte, cinnamon roll Frappuccino, java chip Frappuccino, green tea crème Frappuccino and a chai latte – some are very seasonal flavours which work well as limited time frame offers, and others are poplar year round.

A much sweeter coffee flavour is that of a cold brew, made by infusing coffee with cold water for long hours to reduce bitterness and acidity. It is smoother than an iced coffee that is somewhat bitter to the taste, thanks to its greater oxidization which avoids exposing coffee to heat. Millennials appear to view cold brew as a healthier alternative to soda and energy drinks and also use it more regularly in cocktails. In a bid to capitalize on this growing thirst for chilled coffee drinks, Lavazza plans to launch Nitro Cold Brew – cold brewed coffee infused with nitrogen – machines in 500 French bars, restaurants and hotels in September. Watch this space we say!


  1. Not just a drink

Cascara are the red coffee cherries that are the rest of the coffee fruit and have become a popular superfood in recent times. They’re now being used in teas and flour for health-conscious consumers as they contain great levels of iron, fibre, antioxidants and protein – the holy grail of the healthy! Starbucks in the USA have already launched a limited-edition cascara latte so it is only a matter of time before others follow suit. In terms of wellbeing, this is a great addition to a menu board.

And of course, coffee is not only coffee – we see it flavouring chocolate bars, popsicles or lip balms,  mixed into beer, soda or liquers. Given the health benefits being promoted by consuming more coffee we expect more dishes and snacks to come to market that include coffee over the coming 12 months.

  1. Working 9-5

Given that after home, a workplace is the place where most coffee drinkers consume coffee, and that a coffee break before or between work has been proven to have an effect on efficiency, job satisfaction and employee experience, it seems 2019 could well be the time to ensure that coffee provision in the workplace has more than just a small part to play in employee wellbeing. Ensuring provision of quality coffee machines, franchise or contractor to aids performance and satisfaction will reap rewards with employees.

From a lifestyle, productivity and wellbeing perspective, there are now apps and online tools available to help drinkers plan their optimum coffee drinking based upon the sleep they’ve had, time they woke up and proposed coffee break times. The Coffee Kick Calculator will present users with a timeline of their likely alertness – what a great way to plan times for your meetings!

  1. Expensive taste

For coffee lovers, with premium comes unique taste experiences the coffee has to offer. The uniqueness can come from a rareness (e.g. micro-lot), a special processing method or rare, expensive or new beans (e.g. Esmeralda Special Auction).



Just last week, The Caterer published an advertorial promoting a newly engineered coffee machine from Swiss espresso experts Thermoplan. Said to raise the bar for high street coffee quality and developed specifically for high volume operators this uses advanced technology to deliver quality and consistency at speed. Most machines sell capacity but this machine shows the real statistics tested on the high street and benchmarked against UK & Ireland’s best-selling coffees. We’ll wait to see more and will keep our eyes on –

6. Sustainable

Coffee & sustainability were one the biggest themes at the last London Coffee Festival and it’s likely to be a hot topic yet again. From big impact like large companies initiating actions such as 100% sustainable sourced to entry level initiatives like keep cup usage or recycling coffee waste, everyone can do something to improve the sustainability angle of their coffee production, serve or consumption.

However, there can be contradictions and challenges for operators. The arrival of the first coffee drone deliveries which will be part of Wing, a subsidiary of Google’s parent company ‘Alphabet’ could be seen as a contradiction to the environmental benefits of the sustainability initiatives being implemented, and while its good to see an increase in keep cup usage, some more advanced pioneers of sustainability – where reusable cups are the default option and consumers pay a premium for a china washable cup – are seeing a reduction of around 20% tea/coffee consumption.  It can be difficult for consumers to realise the value of the premium coffee option – when the cleaning element remains the customer responsibility. Boston Tea Party claims sales have fallen by £250,000 since it banned single use cups last summer but continue to urge major national and international brands to follow suit and to factor in losses to ensure they put the planet before their profits.






Location, location, location. Or not…

Location, location, location. This popular phrase has become even more famous by the popular property TV programme with Kirsty and Phil. It dates back to the 1920’s in writing and is often incorrectly attributed to the real estate magnate, Harold Samuel. Back in my hotel management training I seem to remember it being Rocco Forte’s mantra. However, while location is of course critical, when it comes to experiences, is it enough?

On a trip to Devon recently I had the pleasure of visiting the beautiful setting of Hope Cove for a friend’s birthday treat – with a meal planned at the Lobster Pot. Here there are a series of unique glass walled dining capsules – kitted out with the latest sound technology and with the backdrop of beautiful and natural views. The perfect setting? It should have been quite an experience with our lovely friends and a stunning view of the sun setting over the cove.

However, the Lobster Pot ran out of lobster (major disappointment for all!), and unfortunately the standard of food was poor. While I appreciate they had limited kitchen facilities, in 2019 that is no excuse for poor quality. An expert could advise on a suitable menu revamp to match the proposition to the setting and the facilities available, guide on recruitment of a new chef to deliver at the level consumers expect and to improve the purchasing quality.

We appreciated the view, the service was attentive and our waitress delightful, and I would recommend a sharing board and wine to anyone interested, but sadly on this occasion the great location was simply not enough.

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