For many, the pandemic restrictions have caused us to build our lives around waiting for certain dates which announce changes in regulations: “Oh, in two weeks time 3 groups of people (no more than 8) can meet outside with the wind in the right direction and as long as they don’t drink alcohol.” I know I'm being facetious - after 12 months of restrictions you’re allowed to be facetious.
But you get the point. For the F&B sector it’s been a tough shift with a mixture of stringent regulations and false starts for getting back to normal.
As we have engaged with those managing catering accounts in recent days three points have come to the fore as the most obvious pressure points:
- Their teams
- The fluid customer base
- The client’s expectations
The Catering Teams…
I was going to say, ‘smaller teams’ but perhaps not? And therein lies the rub. Who is required for any given day? Bringing a catering team member back off furlough is far from an easy decision to make when you are watching the already tight margins. And the staff themselves? We already know that individual well-being is key for any responsible employer, and not every team member is going to come back and hit the ground running.
There are no silver bullets for these questions of course. However, as a manager manages the ‘humans’, having a digital solution to cover as many bases as possible will be really effective.
There is no longer any spare time for spending on the admin side of catering orders by a team already chasing their tails. That might be a string of simple teas and coffees, or it may be typical meeting room orders. Simple or complex there are ways to streamline the process for every scenario - no question. Digitising the operation has never been so vital as you manage your teams - we will come back to that in a moment.
The Fluid Situation...
Again, this is just a case of having to face the challenge of the moment. Caterer’s can’t change the situation but they can adapt and even take fresh opportunities.
In speaking with a general manager from a large contract caterer, managing a large B&I account, it is clear being able to be nimble on a day to day basis in this post Covid era is essential. Being able to edit menus back of house,so they appear live immediately for the customer, with no need for interaction with the team is just one example where technology is helping to ease the pain.
“The ability to control the number of service users we have in the Restaurant at any one time has been pivotal in us continuing a Catering Service and has increased the safety of both staff and customers. Having the ability to set a suitable lead time has also allowed us to ‘cook to order’ and minimise waste during what is already a challenging time for the industry. The customisation features ensure we can still offer a broad choice to our customers, putting multiple variations on core products.”
As with the catering team issue, when the margins are already very tight, and sustainability is an ever present in any review, a system which avoids wastage is a massive win!
The Client’s Expectations
And here is where the rubber hits the road. For all the talk about a new norm, and a changed landscape for catering in the workforce, one thing has not changed. Or did you think, ‘Getting it right most of the time’ was going to be the way forward? Understandably, Caterer’s clients are always going to look for excellent service and creative solutions to entice staff back to the office, and in turn, caterers already recognise that the social side of being back in the office, with a ‘clubhouse’ feel may just be that boost they have been looking for.
However, as was pointed out in rather ominous terms on James O’Brien’s LBC programme this week, the issue of being able to recruit staff is at a critical level. Hospitality & Catering News’ comments: ‘...conversations with businesses facing staffing issues in recent weeks have escalated…staff shortages are already acute. Ending the free movement of people in Europe has come at a time that could not be worse for hospitality. A perfect storm looms this summer.’
There are a number of areas where the Pandemic has accelerated change in society - digital solutions in hospitality is one such. In the midst of the real and substantial challenges being faced, catering managers can find that the pressure is relieved when technology is allowed to speak into the areas of how staff time is spent hour by hour.
“We are fulfilling a service and continuing to engage with customers and clients in a way that would have been incredibly challenging without the tools Spoonfed gives us.” - GM Contract Caterer
These are uphill battles which caterers are continuing to face. Spoonfed has been committed to standing shoulder to shoulder with a whole range of clients in the Hospitality Sector. As we have developed extra features to help these businesses react to both challenges and opportunities we have been delighted to implement at a level which has been very much ‘Come with us’. Our onboarding team and responsive support team are making sure the battles being faced are not faced alone.
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