26 June 2017 | Francois Gautreaux
The mobilisation period is one of the most exciting times in the life of a contract.
It is time of change where you'll meet new customers, establish new client relationships, introduce your style and, most importantly, welcome new people to the team.
I say 'most importantly' when referring to the team, because they are THE vital ingredient to ensure mobilisation success.
In a traditional restaurant, you have plenty of time to train team members, often several weeks of lead time and potential soft openings where you can test and tweak your offer and service. This is rarely the case in the contract catering environment.
The usual mobilisation in catering allows for team meetings during the TUPE process, but you never usually get to work or train the team until the weekend prior to your first day of service. Or quite often, only on the launch date.
You work in a new environment, with a new team and new customers from the minute you begin. In catering, this is where the excitement lies. To be successful in this arena, you must do three key things very well. Firstly, plan every aspect, secondly, be flexible and agile enough to adapt your offer where required once you have begun, and finally, engage the new team.
With a such a tight window until launch, you need to plan every aspect of the menu, equipment, marketing and customer engagement with military precision. The quality of the conversations you have with the team and the client during the lead up to opening is vital. Plan in contingency for things that may not quite go to plan. Equipment can fail. TUPE team members can choose not to join you and have no obligation to confirm this until they day they begin and suppliers can let you down. You'll rarely encounter problems if you plan for every eventuality.
Flexibility and agility
Being flexible and agile is the second vital ingredient. Even with best planning, there can always be a surprise. Your customers may not be as keen on that new street food concept that worked so well in the building next door. You may have removed something that they absolutely adored. Quickly adapting your offer is key in ensuring you attract customers in those vital opening weeks.
Engaging the team
Above all, mobilisation only works when the new team come on board and shares your vision. The team will be the ones responsible for delivering your food offer. Engage the team by ensuring they meet the owners, directors and line managers during the TUPE process.
It is a wonderful opportunity to really help them understand values, culture and style. Make sure the team understand what things will look like, how food will be prepared, and what training and support they will receive. Regular review meetings and feedback sessions allow the team to contribute to any adaptations you make.
So when you're planning a change, the mobilisation process sounds daunting but our approach shows there's no need to panic. All you have to do is plan, be ready to adapt, and love your team. If you get it right, it's a beautiful thing.
Francois Gautreaux is operational managing director at Bartlett Mitchell