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Recipe for success

FM World brings together a group of key figures from the world of catering and facilities management at a roundtable, sponsored by BaxterStorey and chaired by Cathy Hayward

19 May 2011

Cathy Hayward, founding editor, 
FM World magazine
Fiona Allen, regional account manager, EMEA The McGraw-Hill companies, UK, 
CB Richard Ellis
Elaine Burt, head of projects and facilities management, Societe Generale
Jon Buckley, head of property, Yell
Mike Coldicott, managing director, Tricon Foodservice Consultants
Jason Cousins, premises and facilities director, Olswang
Wendy Cuthbert, head of CRES UK, Barclays
Julian Fris, principal consultant, Neller Davies
Julie Kortens, head of corporate services, Channel Four
Mayur Patel, facilities director, Reynolds Porter Chamberlain
Deborah Rowland, head of facilities management category, Government Property Unit
Peter Titus, head of facilities management, Field Fisher Waterhouse

Cathy Hayward (CH)
There is a huge financial and space investment involved in catering. How do you get best value and how does this relate to employee productivity increases?

Julian Fris (JF
) – If you are located on a high street with shops like Pret A Manger you don’t need catering. The issue becomes about offering them something different.
Deborah Rowland (DR) – If you’re in the middle of nowhere you have to provide something.
Jon Buckley (JB) – Catering really works on a campus site. Or, you could provide a bus service to town.
Mayur Patel (MP) – We moved in 2006 to where shops were scarce and we decided to create a space for people to dine and use it for internal meetings.
Julie Kortens (JK) – Even though we’re in the heart of Westminster, the restaurant is a communications hub, where people can meet and greet. If the weather is bad, employees don’t have to go out.
CH – Considering productivity gains, providing catering on-site means employees are back at their desks within 20 minutes.
DR – When I was involved in designing this building (Barclays) we physically went down into Canada Square and timed how long journeys took.
Mike Coldicott (MC) – At Canary Wharf, logic tells you it’s not sensible to have staff catering due to the existing external offering. But if you create the right contractual environment for a caterer to deliver, then it’s a huge success. Businesses are now all e-mail and not personal. In restaurants, you’re face-to-face.
Jason Cousins (JC) – We redesigned our restaurant with more separated seating and seating pods. Now, not only partners use it for internal meetings with free coffee but clients, too.

CHCan a good catering function be a draw for potential employees?

JF – Some organisations simply provide old muffins and cheap coffee, and employee productivity dips. But that situation can be because the organisation doesn’t know what it wants from catering.
JC – I was in Google’s Zurich office and service and variety of food is unbelievable. It costs a fortune but is designed to keep employees in the office. Sometimes, their families will join them for meals.
Fiona Allen (FA) – As the saying goes, you eat with your eyes. Vibrant colours with comfortable chairs give a higher uptake and encourages networking.
Elaine Burt (EB) – Encouraging people to use restaurant space for meetings in between breakfast, lunch and evening meal is added income in slow times for your caterer.
CH – What about taking clients out to expensive lunches for a few hours versus on-site upmarket private-dining facilities?

Peter Titus (PT) – At my law firm, there’s now a strong focus on entertaining clients in-house. We’re changing some meeting rooms, where the adjacent room can be turned into fine dining for lunch or evening. It will save a significant amount of time and money, such as not taking a cab, claiming money back, justifying the meal.
JF – We benchmarked some catering for a client and found it was four times as expensive going out to restaurants. In-house, you’re replicating good West End restaurants – Barclays here is a good example.
JC – We were once accused of supplying Michelin Star dining in one of our restaurants, implying it was too good for a work environment.

CH – Celebrity chefs, do they help an organisation or is it a fad?

JC – A celebrity chef may not bring customers in, but it can improve catering staff skills.
FA– It can boost morale for the catering team.
MC – Customers know that Marcus Wareing wasn’t wandering around the kitchen cooking. But he can be a good mentor.
AS – Six years ago we teamed up with chef John Campbell and it helps staff be innovative.
JK – Being trained by someone special makes staff feel special. Also, we built our restaurant 16 or 17 years ago, partly to hold events including cocktail parties where we had to outsource the catering. But now the standards of the in-house chefs are so good, we don’t have to.
FA – With fewer restaurant subsidies, employees can pay almost high-street prices, so they demand better quality, or go off-site.
JC – Do you think people’s tastes have changed?
AS – Possibly. When I started it was industrial planning, getting 800 lunches to the workforce in 10 minutes, max, or they complained bitterly.
JK – If you have a young workforce, it could be their main meal of the day. Not so with an older workforce.
JF– Improved catering equipment means you can now 
do things in much smaller spaces.
JB – When I took over an FM operation 10 years ago the kitchen area was larger than the restaurant seating area. I remember, too, being told I couldn’t use the restaurant for a meeting.
JK – We’ve been downsizing and haven’t been allowed to touch the restaurant – it’s the focal point for staff.

CH – Are subsidies still out there?

JC – We do a subsidy because it’s difficult to compete with Sainsbury’s and Tesco. We work closely with catering companies to reduce their costs in order to keep our subsidies down. If you don’t have a captive audience, you need a subsidy.
DR – You can still do a really good offering at nil subsidy. There’s a subsidy by the fact you’re providing a space.
AS – I urge FMs to look at the long-term costs and savings, not just the bid price. Good FM strategy can make a huge difference to the culture and wellbeing of staff, use of space, and keep operating costs sensible.
JF – In many cases the subsidy is lower than compensating people through the wage packet. So it makes sense to bring caterers in at the beginning to help design the facility.
MP – A consultant once advised me they’d build a catering facility suitable for all caterers. But without caterer input, lo and behold, we had to make changes afterwards.

CH – What is your experience of procuring catering?
JK – Most catering consultants understand the value proposition while a procurement person is perhaps cost driven.
JC – FMs are driven hard to keep costs down but people are quick to complain about food, so you can’t do ‘cheap’.
DR – Procurement people challenge you to work out what the value of catering is and what exactly our costs are.
JK – If procurement specialists are doing the monitoring with you, they’re forever trying to drive that cost down and that’s not necessarily what you want need.
AS – If we drive down our suppliers’ price and they go under, we lose good produce. Restaurant customers get poorer quality, fewer people use the restaurant and subsidies have to rise. It’s a viscous circle.

CH – How does your restaurant uphold your organisation’s brand?

PT – Our clients and potential clients want to see you’re disposing of your waste properly, so we now compost our tea bags and our coffee. It costs us money even though it’s easier to send it to landfill.
FA – We get a lot of questions like, “what are we doing about recycled paper” and “do we switch off the lights”. Also, people ask whether our eggs are free range, whether our chicken is sourced ethically, and where our milk is from.
JK – We link catering output to our programme output. In Channel 4’s free-range egg TV campaign, we publicised that we only serve free-range eggs.
When Jamie’s School Dinners TV show aired, we served Jamie Oliver’s school dinners in our restaurant.
JC – When we choose a contractor we want them to meet our values, so little things like paying the staff the London living wage are important. It’s not just about the green values, it’s also about the ethical values.
JK – We have two guys who come around the building with a food trolley. The home of one of the two was destroyed in a fire. The whole of the organisation knew about it and began raising funds for him.
MP – In our company, we have a one-team ethos. We support a charity each year and this year it’s Mencap, so we have a chap from Menca doing some work in our caterer’s restaurant.
MC – If you drive a cold hard procurement process, the sensitivities of understanding a business’ culture will disappear and an adversarial relationship can arise.
CH – Is catering procured separately or within a bundled contract?
Wendy Cuthbert (WC) – It’s better as a bundled service, along with room-booking and reception, so you get the one-touch experience; guests or visitors get a consistent service from arriving at the building to being shown to the meeting room to having lunch.
JK – In a larger organisation with lots of meeting rooms it’s appropriate to bundle it. But for me it’s a specialist service and not bundled. I haven’t found a bundle provider who delivers the quality of catering I need.
JC – Yes, we recently re-tendered with a view to bundling, but didn’t find a contractor with high enough catering qualities.
AS – We miss out on work because it’s bundled. But I can’t believe a bundled FM job on balance, over, say five years, will be cheaper than a specialist working on it who really understands about driving cash revenues.
DR – It depends on the estate you’ve got. But I still think catering sits slightly outside a total FM model, although it can be integrated with other services.
CH – Several years ago, catering wasn’t considered a part of FM, being so specialist and out on its own.
JF – The military and healthcare sector will lean towards a total FM operation with catering, cleaning, the whole lot lumped together.
CH – Yes, but those two examples have really bad food.
JF – We’ve tended to go down the route of FM and catering as separate, and it seems to work better for our clients.
MP – The whole of our south side hospitality area with its front-of-house, reception, switchboard, meeting rooms and catering is all on one site so it makes sense to bundle that into a smooth operation.

CH – Regarding concessions, why would you choose to have a Starbucks or Benugo’s or Costa either in the reception area or in breakout areas?

– Last summer I introduced a Starbucks on site and watched as our sales increased by 40 per cent. The prices are similar to the in-house brands we previously used, so there’s been no extra cost to customers.
WC – I think it is because people want the familiarity of a brand. We have Benugo’s and Starbucks because it’s what customers ask for. And it’s convenient. Customers don’t want to go out. We did a survey on site and Starbucks and Costa came out equal. We went for Starbucks and it’s been very successful.
JC – We did a full survey with taste-testing and ended up changing our coffee. People just wanted something different to Starbucks.
JB – All is lost if the barista can’t make coffee, or can’t smile and engage with you. My sister would walk past a Starbucks to go to the nearby Cafe Nero because the bloke in there fancies her, simple as that.
CH – I visited a hospital that was the first in the UK to put in a Starbucks. For patients and their guests, meeting in the Starbucks feels like leaving the hospital grounds. It can have a therapeutic effect.
– I’m very passionate about making the restaurant 
a non-work environment inside 
the workplace.