Fit for purpose

Mark Arnold, Director at MAALT Consultants explains why today’s changing environment requires a specialist approach

Great emphasis must be placed on core objectives

We have arguably seen unprecedented levels of change with the Foodservice and FM sectors in the last few years with ever-greater demand on client organisations to achieve greater space productivity, financial savings, and efficiencies of scale and so on.  This has created a boom in the IFM and TFM market for operators to provide a huge range of bundled services either through self-delivery or combination of self-delivery and sub-contracting to specialist firms.  In many cases these are large multi-site, multi-country deals that require significant investment upfront by the supplier/s and a demand for aggressive savings glide paths which are often not agreed without full and proper knowledge of all the relevant facts and figures.  This can easily result in complex contracts being awarded based on un-sound decisions and commitments, which ultimately creates challenges to successful delivery and a culture of distrust.

So, what does this have to do with the Foodservice sector and the role of an independent consultant?

In our experience the IFM, TFM and the caterer will respond to the questions asked during an RFI/RFP process on a limited timescale that may not allow for the time to really understand the objectives of the client organisation and how they can best meet them.  Where there is a shortage of strategy, dialogue, financial and technical data (all key to the creation of a robust, well thought out propositions) then how can we know if they will stand the test of time and truly deliver?

Following a 25-year career spanning hotel, and business & industry catering in client and supplier roles on a global basis I recently made a very conscious decision to enter into the world of consultancy. I believe there is a need for fresh perspective on some of the key issues. This includes the lack of understanding and clarity around supplier income from assorted discounts, the desire from clients to have investment from their catering supplier and the habitual approach to contract terms.  I believe that it is the role of the consultant to question, challenge, debate and advise a client on these topics whilst simultaneously engaging the supply chain in the same meaningful debate.

We have this multi layered involvement in the outsourcing of catering services and we often don’t truly know who the real client is and whether they have had direct involvement in the development of the RFI/RFP or has this been led by the Procurement team, who may have different drivers and objectives.

This is where the role of an independent consultant really comes to the fore, when engaged at the outset or at least the very early stages of the process to decide to tender the catering services we are able to work with the client team to really understand the culture of the organisation, how it views it employees and the services it provides to them and how they in turn impact on the employee and their ability to demonstrate the right behaviours and values that underpin the organisations culture, values and market objectives.

Early engagement in this way allows the consultant to offer un-biased industry wide views and perspectives and assist the client team in building a strategy and process that can be easily articulated, managed and delivered.  We can open the debate on some of the possibly long held views and perspectives on the methods of delivering financial success in a catering contract, i.e. nil-subsidy is the way to go. We can articulate to our clients the power of catering services to impact on many areas of the business, including the health and well-being of their employees, space utilisation, collaborative working, employee recruitment and retention.

So, in answer to the question posed earlier this complex layer of stakeholders, objectives, challenges and agendas means that there is a need for a fresh focus on catering services as part of bundled FM deals. Catering is the only service in a building where very often the employer asks the employee to contribute; out of their own pocket.  With the explosion of the “eating out market”, environmental challenges and focus on “healthy eating”, today’s consumer reaches all the way through to the C-Suite and has an opinion which they rightly feel should be heard.  In order to truly create outsourced solutions that are fit for purpose and sustainable we need to place greater emphasis on the organisational objectives as well as the voice of the consumer. By engaging an independent specialist at the outset this level of direct engagement can be achieved and will positively affect the outcome of a tender process and the successful delivery of a catering contract.