Contract Catering is changing

Balanced Food is a modern food service player; breaking new ground, not seeing the traditional boundaries of old.

It has been a very difficult time for the foodservice sector. For a number of months, many genuinely believed it would all return to a level of normality which reflected life pre-March. It has felt that October brought a new understanding that the world has changed. It is true that it is going to be a long road back to regain lost revenues for many. However, it is not all bleak as some are finding they are able to break new ground and cross the lines of traditional boundaries.

Many experts are commentating that they forecast a 2021 world dominated by advancement in micro-markets plus with greater advances made of CPU delivered in food models. It does change the dynamic and is a model that is attracting many hotels and venues as it is absolutely logical as they no longer need to carry high salary costs in culinary teams, have freshly prepared foods delivered into operations to be finished by less skilled teams. This is opening doors in areas which foodservice companies could rarely ever come close to; hotels, lodges, resorts, restaurants and venues. It opens up whole new horizons.

It could well be that the modern food service company of the post-pandemic landscape will no longer be limited by traditional thinking for as new markets open up, so this will change thinking. It can be argued that foodservice has been too long dominated by discussions around purchasing and cost; but now it may well be more about the quality of produce, sustainability, food waste and service levels.
One company who has seen this genuine potential is the Balanced Food Company, which has brought together the talents of Mark McCann and Ian Summers. Together they have created two companies; Balanced Food Company which does focus on running contracts and Food First, a CPU/delivered in model based out of Oxfordshire. They are having discussions with a number of hotels and restaurants from London to the Thames Valley, Cotswolds and down to the SW. As a result, their psychology is very different to that of many other companies as they can only see growth and opportunity ahead of them, whilst others feel under siege, seeing operations either close or fall in number. It is one of the interesting aspects of this whole pandemic; that many young companies can see opportunity whilst so many established players see the threat and hurt all around. It could see many dynamics naturally change.

“What I find exciting about this period of time is that conversations with new clients are getting back to the positive pillars of our work – food and service. Both Ian and myself came from culinary backgrounds and we both love to talk food so we do see the developments as very positive,” commented Mark McCann.
“Mark is right,” nodded Ian, “but what I find exciting is the new opportunities emerging in front of us. Most are aware that the B&I sector has been very difficult for many operators. Many companies only have anything from 20-40% of their teams working in offices so of course, it does it very hard for many operators. In a traditional market, this would have been true for us too but this is changing all the rules. I love the fact that we are talking to hoteliers, discussing new options, talking food and service in a whole new way.”

“We have both been driven by a love for delivering great food options and services to our clients,” agreed Mark, “that is what brings the best out of us. Of course, we need to work with budgets and cost frameworks but we are constantly developing new food concepts to excite our customers. A week ago, I had a chef working with me on developing a new Thai sandwich which was delicious. This period is asking us to innovate with food in a way that maybe companies have done for some time.

This market is, of course, remarkably difficult but it is asking all of us in the sector to really think differently, to innovate, to adapt, and to create.

The move is away from Operations Managers controlling accounts to skilled craft-based talents innovating in food.”
“For us, we want to maintain a flat structure as we grow,” noted Ian. “We both had great respect for Catering & Allied in the past which employed great site managers and then were supported by the company’s leadership team.
We want to do similar. We want our managers to really be leaders on the ground, to be enabled to provide great service levels to our clients.”

“It is putting an emphasis on service in Food Service but also with food which can make a real difference. Clients are going to pose all operators new questions – on sustainability, on nutrition, health. Our mission is to make our client’s days that little bit better whether that is in a hotel, a B&I operation, a venue or restaurant”

Food Service is changing. The model is changing as is the thinking. Is Balanced Food an example of the new company to emerge?