In times of crisis, it is not unusual for people to come together for a greater purpose. While ‘collaboration’ is a term thrown around by many in the corporate world, during the coronavirus pandemic, it has become a necessity.
It is by riding on this wave of cooperation that big players in catering have come together on an industry first. More than 20 companies and individuals from the food service sector have joined forces to launch ‘Food Service Circle’ (FSC) – a platform aiming to offer support to those affected by the economic fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic.
With reduced building occupancy a major concern for businesses, approximately 20 per cent of the workforce are expected to be made redundant or face significantly reduced hours.
In the autumn, as workers leave the government’s furlough scheme, unemployment is set to rise further.
As a result, the industry has come together to create a support network to allow former workers to stay connected, and continue to develop their skills and knowledge as they seek new employment.
Donna Catley, chief people officer at Compass Group UK&I, said: “The aim of Food Service Circle is to help people impacted by Covid-19 – supporting them in finding a new job, developing their skills and maintaining their confidence and self-belief.”
But the move is not just about tips on how to write CVs. “Beyond the short term, we want to keep people in our industry and help them continue to grow their careers,” said Catley. “It is critical we retain talented people in our industry. Put simply, we can’t exist without them. We want them to know that we care, support their development and keep them engaged and passionate about working with us now and in the future.”
FSC will act as a one-stop shop for all former team members, offering free training, counsel, advice and job opportunities.
Every week, the platform will house webinars and guidance for those seeking employment, with topics including CV writing, how to make the most of social media, the latest health and safety developments, and how to search for the right role.
Leaders from each of the companies involved will also host insight sessions to update job seekers on the latest developments within their own business and the wider sector.
The food service sector is a major contributor to the hospitality sector and the wider UK economy. According to the latest UKHospitality Food Service Management Market Report published in 2019, the UK’s FSM sector had a collective turnover of £10.9 billion, employing more than 293,000.
The FSC collaboration is an initiative created by the UKHospitality’s Foodservice Forum, where contract catering businesses from across the foodservice sector regularly meet to discuss issues affecting the industry.
During the Covid-19 crisis, these businesses have worked closely to feed into UKHospitality’s guidance to the government.
The companies involved in FSC include: ABM Catering, Amadeus, Aramark, Artizian, Bartlett Mitchell, BaxterStorey, Blue Apple, Celtic Catering, Churchill, CH&Co, Compass Group, Elior, Genuine Dining Co, Graysons, Harrison, Houston and Hawkes, Lexington, OCS, Sodexo, Susa Comms and Vacherin.
Wendy Bartlett, founder of Bartlett Mitchell and board member of UKHospitality, said: “We all have a real sense of duty to the people who have worked so hard to make our businesses the successes they have been, that’s why it was important for all of us to create this cohesive support network. I must credit my competitors for coming together in this crisis to support our industry.”
Noel Mahony, co-chief executive, BaxterStorey, said: “As we start the process of rebuilding our businesses, it is incumbent on all of us to support those who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own.”
A honeypot of talent
Nick Clegg, part of the Food Service Circle team, and a displaced member of the food service workforce, said: “We have created a community that will keep our colleagues connected with each other and the foodservice industry’s employers.
“As somebody who is going through the process myself, I know it can be worrying, however, it’s reassuring to know that the sector is doing what it can to support its people during this difficult period.
“In the short term, by being connected to the community more closely, the FSC will give those who have been made redundant a far greater presence than they may have had in their own right. Also, many people will not have updated their CV or indeed been for an interview for many years, so the various training tools will help them prepare themselves for reemployment.
“In the medium term, the FSC will help people get back to work as soon as possible by sharing job opportunities as the sector recovers. In the long-term, keeping the FSC will also keep our industry’s loyal family more connected with the wider foodservice industry than they have ever been before. This will help employers fill vacancies far more efficiently, and give all companies who support the FSC greater access to candidates.
“Our overall aim is for this to be a really focused ‘honeypot of talent’ and with the support of many companies, minimise the economic impact on all those who have been affected.”
New figures from the Office of National Statistics found that in April and May 2020, there was widespread evidence of severe disruption from the hospitality sector. Despite food stores remaining at a higher level since the peak in March 2020, the decline in output for food manufacture during April was linked to a drastic fall in demand from pubs, restaurants and cafés. The slight recovery during June for food and beverage services was led by higher demand from businesses that had reopened or were preparing to reopen, but the overall output level remained very weak. Source: ONS