Placing culinary expertise at the heart of business

Nick Vadis, Culinary Director for Compass Group UK & Ireland, has witnessed first-hand how both Compass and the food service sector at large has changed and evolved in the way that chefs are more directly involved in the business. EP discussed with Nick how this translates on a practical level.

Nick VadisNick joined Compass Group in 2001 as an Executive Chef for a large business and industry client and soon rose to the fore as he played an influential role in developing compelling offers for key clients.

After six years in the business, Nick was appointed UK Executive Chef for Compass Group UK & Ireland and is now Culinary Director. Nick reflected; “Compass has always been a company known for its strong values. When I joined, the business was in a good position but from a culinary perspective, I could see there was an opportunity to make improvements.”

“We operate across a number of diverse sectors all with varying needs. This naturally often translates into numerous requirements in terms of the ingredients our sites are using. As a business we needed to ensure we accommodated these needs whilst still having a joined up approach.”

Compass Group UK & Ireland has ensured that its Culinary Director is on its senior leadership team, reporting directly into the UK & Ireland Executive team and working closely alongside Compass’ commercial team to drive culinary and commercial excellence.

As part of the change in approach to procurement that Oliver Cock – Commercial Managing Director for Compass Group UK & Ireland – and his team have been focused on delivering, Compass also realised that there was a need to place more focus on getting its chef teams to meet with suppliers. By putting in place a process that fostered such relationships, Compass’ expert chef teams have been able to understand what each supplier can bring to the table, allowing them to develop ways of working together to deliver products that better fit its hugely diverse customer base.

At the same time Compass looked at each of its sectors and their ingredients requirements before undertaking an ingredients optimisation programme to ensure Compass was working with the best suppliers across each category and sector.

Suppliers like to talk to chefs and this new way of working has allowed these relationships to develop so there is now a genuine two way-dialogue between Compass’ supplier partners, commercial and chef teams.

With this, the supply chain has also become less complex, enabling Compass to develop strong partnerships with suppliers, in turn driving mutual growth.

“It ultimately created a win-win situation,” says Nick. “It placed chefs at the heart of the business and gave them the opportunity to work closely with their commercial colleagues and our suppliers so that there was a really clear understanding of the needs of our chefs and operations teams out in the business. Synergies were created between our chef development team and commercial buyers that improved both the processes we had in place and the results we were delivering.”

One of the great debates in food service is who has the power – the chef or the procurement professional?

Nick concludes, “We have worked to ensure that the balance in this relationship is such that all sides feel that we work together as a team to get the best result in terms of quality and value. Ultimately, our purchasing teams want the involvement of the chefs and vice-versa. So much has changed and I am sure it will continue to evolve for the better.”

Undoubtedly there are still ways that supplier-buyer relationships can improve but open discussion is needed around the subject for progress to be made.

Continuing the series of events looking at the issues surrounding supplier-buyer relations, EP and Compass will host a breakfast forum from 8am to 10am on the morning of Thursday 2nd October. Bringing together an expert group of thought-leaders from the sector, EP are delighted to invite you to this forum tackling the big issues of procurement in the hospitality sector from the point of view of head chefs and food service professionals.

For more information on how to join the forum on October 2nd, please contact Arlene McCaffrey

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