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A New Dawn of Catering Consultancy: My First Two Years at TAF

June 2021 is a special month for me, as it marks my first two years as a consultant at TAF (15 months of which during a global pandemic).

For those who don’t know me already, I would describe myself as follows:

  1. One of the few UK female consultants;
  2. A member of the LGBTQ+ community;
  3. A British citizen by naturalisation.

I’ve been living in London for over 10 years and worked in hospitality throughout my whole career. I love this industry and I am not planning on leaving it anytime soon. I only wish more people felt the same.

Since indoor hospitality reopened on May 17th, we’ve been hearing worrying news about hospitality staff shortages across the country. A recent survey by UK Hospitality revealed that the vacancy rate across the sector is 9% – a total shortage of circa. 190,000 workers, especially in Front of House and Chef positions. *1  

 

And why would that be? Obvious reasons aside – Brexit and a global pandemic causing people to go back to their countries of origin or changing sector altogether – there’s a more deeply rooted issue within British society (and many others): hospitality has never been considered a “career of choice”.

Hospitality is one of the industries with the highest turnover and is perceived by the general public as “unskilled”. For younger UK generations, hospitality is usually a stopgap career and for foreigners, it represents the proverbial “foot in the door” while getting used to life in a different country. I believe that’s simply unfair.

A career in hospitality deserves as much care and attention as any other sector, both from an employer and employee point of view. It should not mean stressfully long hours and poor working conditions, it should not mean low pay rates, it should not mean precarious contracts.

The point I am trying to make is very simple: I am living proof that focus, commitment and resilience go a long way, and you can really achieve your self-actualisation goals in this wonderful industry.

Focus. Commitment. Resilience. Interesting word choice. Why? Because that’s exactly what the contract catering world (and each of the 40 caterers in our network) demonstrated during these challenging times. They shaped the future of the workplace catering industry (more on this later).

It was an absolute delight to resume non-project related site visits a couple of weeks ago, meeting again face to face with the best and the brightest, the engine of our industry.

What did TAF Catering Consultancy do in return? To answer this question, I’d like to borrow TAF’s mission statement: listening, collaborating, delivering.

  1. We listened | We listened to our clients, supporting them throughout and helping them answer the questions: “How has the market changed? How does it look like today? What do we do next with our foodservices?” The nature of our work has changed as a result, and we are engaging more and more with senior stakeholders, to establish at a corporate level what food/foodservices mean to them and a baseline for a more fit-for-purpose approach to deliver relevant, reliable and timely catering services contracts.
  2. We collaborated | We embraced the “virtual world” and engaged with caterers (having regular conversations at least three times a year), fellow consultants, specialist collaborators (from executive chefs to HR experts) and industry publications – writing thought-provoking articles, trying to make sense of it all.
  3. We delivered | Originally focussing on London corporate organisations by choice, TAF adapted and evolved too, taking on several new projects for essential services clients – none in London and none in B&I. Tracey and I strongly believe a brighter future awaits for all of us, and we look forward to keep breaking the boundaries of traditional consultancy, making our mark along the way.

Final Thoughts: How does a New Dawn of Catering Consultancy look like?

As a new era of post-pandemic catering consultancy begins, I’d like to leave you with three parting thoughts around: food, people, and technology.

  1. Food | Customer’s expectations on food quality in the workplace will be at an all-time high, having spent so much time cooking for themselves and learning new culinary skills in the process. Gone are the days of endless menu choices in staff restaurants. Caterers will concentrate on fewer dishes done exceptionally well, with a food offer that changes more often and not necessarily tied to four-week menu cycles. The restaurant operation of the future will be based on an artisan cafe style type of offer, very much like a modern version of 17th century cafes: a retreat to foster community spirit and promote the exchange of ideas.
  2. People | Research published by the MIT in 2020 demonstrated that a single day of social isolation causes people to crave social interactions similar to the way a hungry person craves food. *2. Does this apply to the much-debated return to the workplace? UK statistics suggest otherwise. In April 2021, the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management (IWFM) revealed that 63% of employees believed the office was unnecessary and that hybrid working was the preferred option, especially for 18-24-year-olds. *3 How will employers create “reasons to visit” for their employees then? Offices will have to step up a level and become amenity-based spaces for ad-hoc training, mentoring, innovation activities, and face-to-face meetings – a catalyst for meaningful interaction while day to day work is done remotely.
  3. Technology | It is undeniable that the last 15 months have marked an acceleration in the uptake of digital media and tech solutions by customers, and contract catering operators have also upped their “tech game” as a consequence. App technology is now almost ubiquitous in staff restaurant operations, from basic click and collect to more complex delivered-in booking systems. In addition, flexing building populations – while wfh is still the norm – have led caterers to harness the power of data to determine what customers want and ensure they get through those restaurant doors. At TAF, we believe the potential for innovation is even greater, and technology will play a key part in enhancing and complementing traditional foodservices: we are thinking smart fridges, hot meals #techdine solutions, Amazon-style unmanned retail outlets.

Is this a future you’ve imagined many times but find too hard to turn into a successful reality?

That’s exactly what we’re here for. That is why I look forward to the many more years I’ll be spending at TAF Catering Consultancy, shaping the foodservice future that is yet to come.

#contractcatering #catering #hospitality #cateringconsultancy #foodservices #foodservice #workplacecatering #facilitiesmanagement #contractcaterers

References

*1 UK Hospitality warns of “staffing crisis” as sector faces shortages of 188,000 workers. Available at: https://www.bighospitality.co.uk/Article/2021/06/01/UKHospitality-warns-of-staffing-crisis-as-sector-faces-shortage-of-188-000-workers

*2: A hunger for social contact. Available at: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/11/201123120724.htm

* 3: More Employees see office as “unnecessary”. Available at: https://www.facilitatemagazine.com/content/news/2021/04/15/more-employees-see-office-unnecessary

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