Open-access content 28th September 2009
Compass Group Ireland has been feeding Eircom's 1,400 for nine years and, with the contract extended for a further three years, the telecoms giant still finds the partnership very much to its taste
1 October 2009
by David Arminas
Compass Group Ireland's nine year-old catering contract with telecommunications business Eircom was re-awarded in June for a further three years. The contract's general manager, Mary McSorley, has been with Compass for more than two years and is used to managing large contracts: "The bigger, the better".
"The priority is always to ensure the highest service possible to customers and the client," she continues. "The customer is the one seated at the table and the client is the contracted business and its FM head, in this case Pat O'Sullivan." (see box). McSorley started at Eircom when the business moved from several smaller sites across Dublin into its new building in mid-2008. Prior to this she managed IBM's head office catering.
The main restaurant seats 350, and a café on the eighth floor seats around 70 and boasts a panoramic view of Dublin. The "We Freshly Brew" Starbucks café is run by Compass, which also offers its own fare such as sandwiches and pastries alongside Starbucks products. "It's a number one spot to grab a coffee and have that ten minutes' quiet reflection time before the next meeting," she notes.
For convenience Eircom has installed 19 self-serve Flavia machines serving hot drinks. All are outside meeting rooms and breakout areas.
Importantly, the Flavia machines are also integral to the surrounding noticeboard area where the menu for the main restaurant is put up several days in advance.
Employees have five or six hot choices daily and there are three sandwich bars for a lighter option. On offer every day is a carvery, a fish dish, vegetarian meals, low-calorie food and options such as pie and chips or chilli con carne. However, over the past decade McSorley has seen diners become more adventurous in their eating habits - and more discerning about what they consume.
It's one of the reasons that themed meal days have been introduced, where special dishes from Germany, Italy and India, for example, are featured. It will also help counter growing competition from food outlets outside the building. A branch of Subway and another food outlet are set to begin trading soon, McSorley believes. "That's one reason why we started having our themed days once a week, usually on a Wednesday, our busiest day."
Wednesday is the day that many employees in outlying sites or on the road will come into head office for meetings. Upwards of 850 people will pass through the restaurant. And McSorley, her 19 full-time and three part-time staff are kept busy from breakfast at 7.30am to the end of lunch at 2.15pm.
Put it on the plastic
Fast, efficient service is imperative, she explains. "That's why Eircom decided to go cashless in the catering areas. Employees have what amounts to a plastic debit card that they can top up with credit at several loading machines."
But what about visitors to the building? Don't they need a card-carrying employee at their shoulder throughout the day in case they want something to eat or drink?
McSorley explains. "They get a visitor card that they load up in similar fashion to an employee debit card at one of the machines. At the end of the day if there is any credit left, they can insert the card and get the remaining credit back as cash."
Anyone short of credit at the checkout needn't worry either. The card comes with an automatic 2 euro credit. Occasionally even that may not be enough. If that happens, she tells the client that she will hold their meal and they can nip over to a nearby loading machine. It takes less than a minute to top up and the machines also "read" a card to tell the holder how much credit remains.
With 99 meeting rooms in the building, the hospitality side is particularly important. Employees can "order in" whatever food and drink they wish for their meeting, from 6.30am right into the evening for special functions. It compares well to first-class room service at a major hotel, indeed the hospitality manager has several years' experience in that sector.
Too often a caterer loses touch with its customers and so loses their custom, a dangerous situation if new street restaurants move into the business area. For that reason Compass encourages comments, criticism and, importantly, meal suggestions from customers. It's as simple as an email and they all land in McSorley's inbox.
The building that moves
Pat O'Sullivan, head of FM at Irish telecoms giant Eircom, has a special interest in the outsourced catering provider at the new Dublin headquarters. The former butcher and barman wants only the best for Eircom's employees.
"Not a lot gets by me. Because of my background, people know my face," he says with a smile.
The new three-year deal is confirmation that Compass successfully managed the transition from catering at two former Eircom sites into the new headquarters, an eight-floor, 250,000 sq ft building in the prestigious development of Heuston South Quarter.
Eircom Property Services,and Facility Management along with architects Anthony Reddy Associates and ARUP consulting engineers were part of the design team responsible for delivering Eircom's new corporate offices, 1 Heuston South Quarter. Eircom is the anchor tenant, for the Heuston South Quarter development, said O'Sullivan, who has been with Eircom for 25 years. What Eircom got was a "building that moves", meaning people are free to conduct business anywhere they please, says O'Sullivan. That is why there are 99 meeting rooms in the totally Wifi-enabled structure.
What Eircom got was a "building that moves", meaning people are free to conduct business anywhere they please, says O'Sullivan. That is why there are 99 meeting rooms, large informal breakout areas on all floors and no offices in the totally Wifi-enabled structure.
Nonetheless, the main concern was space management, specifically in the restaurant. "With close to 1,400 employees currently, and capacity for 1,600,it was always going to be a challenge to ensure staff had ample seating to enjoy the catering. In designing the space and working closely with Compass, we have managed to avoid any problems we thought may have arisen. We figure there are more than 500 people that can be seated for eating at any time throughout the building."
The numbers add up, he says: 350 in the restaurant, up to 70 in the café and 100 with take-away snacks thanks to an online deli service. People can order what they want on the intranet and pick it up at the restaurant where it will be waiting to go, barcoded for billing.