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Experts call for more ring-fencing of catering as part of wider FM strategy

Catering is emotive and needs to be ring-fenced from other FM services, according to a panel of experts from the food and facilities management industry, who attended a recent roundtable event.

The panel, which included high-profile consultants operating in the workplace, healthcare, education, and leisure sectors, also concluded that catering plays a huge role in influencing productivity and should be an integral part of any company’s wellbeing strategy.

Hosted by independent caterer, bartlett mitchell, and chaired by its CEO, Ian Thomas, the roundtable discussion aimed to identify key issues facing catering and FM businesses over the coming year.

The panel also discussed how catering can support recruitment and retention, enhance brand value and facilitate better collaboration in the workplace.

Thomas said:

“People are far more educated about food these days which can make it a very emotive issue. They understand how dishes are made, what produce is used and the impact it can have on their bodies.  This makes them better placed to make a judgement on food than most other FM services, so it’s incredibly important for businesses to ensure that they have the right offer as part of their workplaces and buildings.

“Businesses are also very aware of how brand perception can impact performance and productivity which is why we are seeing so much focus on creating and developing collaborative and engaging environments. Employers know that prospective employees are looking for more than just a salary.

“In addition, catering as part of TFM means it can sometimes become commoditised, which could result in the loss of focus and create potential reputational risk.”

Chris Stern, managing director, Stern Consultancy, said:

“Catering is one of the only services clients’ personnel have to pay for directly. This in itself means that an additional level of scrutiny is applied when making a judgement on its quality. That’s why, on most occasions, there should be extra consideration given to using specialist catering providers as part of an overall FM tender.”

Julian Fris, director of the facilities management consultancy, Neller Davies, added:

“It’s important for FM leads to look at their catering offer as more than just another service line. It can be utilised to aid broader wellness objectives, as well as create commercial and reputational currency amongst its employees and other stakeholders. Whilst there will always be debate and discussion around using specialist vs TFM providers, it’s important to note that there is no one size fits all solution.”

The meeting took place at Trinity in Clapham, the recently Michelin-starred restaurant owned by Adam Byatt, who is chef consultant at bartlett mitchell.

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