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Times are a-Changin'

by Willie Biggart

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The times they are a-changin’! Bob Dylan’s iconic lyrics move effortlessly across the years. Perhaps there are just some moments in time more than others when Dylan’s lyrics just seem to cut through the noise of the day to give us that drive we need. Frankly, ‘you better start swimmin or you’ll sink like a stone.’

“The office, as we once knew it, is dead.” That was the opening salvo in an excellent article in this week’s Spectator magazine. The offices and daily commute confined to the history books.

But the tone of the article was positive and very much ‘The Office is dead! Long live the Office’ -The key element is, of course, the ‘as we once knew it’.

As I read it I wondered, if the times are a-changing, then for the catering businesses which served these offices, to sit back and expect things to come back to normal may well be confining themselves to the history books too.

Let’s play this out in our own context and think through what this will mean for those whose skills and efforts were centred around drop off corporate catering, and internal FSM contracts. Again, if the Spectator article (and there are other voices too) are telling us that the workplace and the workforce habits has changed substantially then the businesses which continue to offer the same service as before will find they are the square peg in the round hole of opportunity - others are ready to move in to take this space

Some considerations:

Commissary Kitchens and central production units have been with us for a while now - what will their role be going forward? Corporate offices will still want bespoke offerings on hand even though their workforce may be fewer (and more fluid) than before. With a smaller in-office headcount, there will naturally be fewer workplace restaurants. Can this be managed with efficiency with no reduction in quality of service? The solution is the technology that can service multiple clients from a single central location while allowing each of them to have their own branding and menu offering.

Another key factor will be the very raison d'etre for staff being in offices. Perhaps, part of the bounce back the Hospitality sector will enjoy is that when people do meet in the office it won’t be to handle the emails they worked on at home. They are gathering to have meetings which are far more ‘social’ in make-up - and the team which meets together, eats together! It may well be that it is the larger corporate business who ride the pandemic out better than most - ‘twas ever thus. However, it is in relation to their extensive head offices, hosting thousands of staff, where the hit may be taken. Smaller satellite offices (often taking a floor in a Coworking Space) was already something which we had begun to see.

I think that trend, while naturally taking a dip in 2020, will be cemented as the norm in the months to come. In fact, the coworking spaces for businesses large and small, can also react well to the changing scene (as outlined in the point above) and make sure they have a catering solution for their clients… and no, a leaflet for the pizza place round the corner lying in the break out area doesn’t count! Seriously, there is a real opportunity for coworking spaces to give excellent service to their clients, while also enjoying a second stream of revenue by taking up technology to manage external vendors.

Spoonfed’s decision to hire more developers and focus on solutions for this new landscape is already paying off for catering managers seeking to adapt to the changed world they find themselves in. To circle back to our song lyric again, I don’t think the offer to ‘come gather round people’ is a thing of the past? Neither do I believe the office is dead. Not at all, however, things have moved on and the wise thing to do is recognise what we can’t change and adapt to what is in front of us.

Do please speak to me, or one of the team today, and discover what we can do for your tomorrow.


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