This January, TAF Catering Consultancy reached out to the 43 caterers in their network to find out how they are doing and how they are supporting clients with their return to work strategies. Here’s a summary of our findings.
2020 will undoubtedly go down in history as the most challenging year for foodservices. Hospitality has been deeply affected by challenging circumstances, with over half a million people losing their jobs, and furlough a “saving grace” for most UK foodservice businesses.
As 2021 is now well underway, TAF Catering Consultancy has reached out to all 43 caterers in our network to understand how they’re doing and how they are shaping up for the year ahead.
Why? The contract catering market is moving and evolving, driven by 2 key factors:
- Back to Work Strategies| In preparation for the lifting of restrictions, employers are developing their return to work strategy, with a focus on employee re-engagement, health & wellbeing, safety. For this reason, caterers appear to be liaising more and more with the HR function within organisations, as they are in a prime position to support them with a bespoke catering offer.
- Foodservice Options | Businesses are investigating their staff feeding options for 2021 and beyond, as their catering contracts come to an end or simply because they are not completely satisfied with their current service provider.
We’ve been inspired by the caterers’ resilience, positivity and good work, despite all the challenges, which bode well for 2021 and beyond. Each caterer outlined a different approach to business continuity and client relationship management. Our key findings are summarised below.
Part A: Business Performance
Caterers performance to date appears to be highly dependent on the key sectors they operate in:
- Some expanded their business model based on a blended approach, with catering being only one element of a wider offer that includes cleaning, reception and security.
- Some focussed on pre-existing business streams that were not affected by the ongoing crisis such as healthcare, education, care homes & assisted living.
- Others have not diversified their revenue streams or pivoted alternative foodservice solutions but stuck with their core B&I business, developing solutions for clients on a case-by-case basis.
Part B: A Common Thread
From our conversations, TAF have established 5 recurring trends:
- Key Sectors | Market presence in sectors such as cleaning, security, healthcare & education have proven instrumental in generating a profit, while B&I clients aren’t operating.
- Innovation | 2020 was characterised by unparalleled levels of foodservice innovation, from digital transformation through App development, to virtual engagement programs, to caterer-run, flexible delivered in services.
- Furlough | Redundancies and restructuring have occurred across the board, with variable numbers of team members involved, based on the caterer size and core business. Almost all caterers have benefitted from furlough and flexi furlough to meet flexible foodservice requirements effectively.
- Catering Teams Engagement | Engagement programs were created to support redundant/temporarily unemployed staff in their job search and to facilitate re-hiring once business levels go back to normal, from in-house staffing agencies to career advice initiatives.
- A New Working Week | Long before 2020, the UK Government was encouraging the uptake of flexible working practices in the workplace. The trend was undoubtedly accelerated by the pandemic and it is now a permanent feature of employees working weeks.
- After months of homeworking, employees seem eager to return to the workplace, and foodservices will play an integral part in their experience, as they help boost productivity and a sense of community.
- As working patterns have changed and the return to work is staggered, most caterers are adapting their services around a shorter working week, which will see building occupancy rise Tuesday to Thursday.
- Spend per head also appears to be affected by these new working practices, with customers enticed by the staff restaurant food offer after months spent catering for themselves. For this reason, caterers are developing fit-for-purpose menus striking a balance between healthy and indulgent, whilst controlling food waste effectively.
On a Final Note…
Whilst 2021 didn’t probably start as expected, with risk management still being very much at the top of the agenda for corporate organisations, TAF do believe the contract catering panorama has been forever changed and re-shaped by this defining moment in our history.
With so many different options on the market at the moment, TAF looks forward to working with corporate organisations to bring them the best, most fit for purpose solutions for their foodservices moving forward.
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