Food Service has an opportunity but needs to find a stronger voice

…For it does have a very good strong case to make, not to its own industry but to those they serve – companies, universities, schools, stadia, heritage sites and hospitals. Great food service can make a real difference. Every large venue – business or customer facing needs to possess a strong F&B offering.

By Chris Sheppardson, Managing Director, EP

There is many that believe that technology will solve the problems in productivity – maybe, maybe not – but there is a rising desire and need for enhanced services and great food produce which provides the opportunity that exists today for the food service industry – but it wont just happen.

When we look back at 2018, I suspect we will talk of a tough year when snow days and the hot summer hardly helped operators and there are not many that have found the economy this year offering much ease. It has been challenging and of course there is the national living age and the threat of food inflation that lie at anywhere between 0 and 15%. All together this creates a storm that, in turn, makes the operators feel under constant pressure with no clear let up on the horizon.

However, there is far more to the picture as the consumer is changing at such a speed. There are many dimensions to the picture that is developing and one has to ask - how within a facilities and workplace strategy will food service services be procured in the future and what will be the level of expertise required to effect a robust yet suitably agile contract to allow new solutions in line with the desires of customer?

There is many that believe that technology will solve the problems in productivity – maybe, maybe not – but there is a rising desire and need for enhanced services and great food produce which provides the opportunity that exists today for the food service industry – but it wont just happen.

It will need to be different to what exists today. It will be forced to change and arguably the model alongside. Many has stated that the sector needs a disrupter and maybe the disrupter will prove to the customer/end-user?

A number of observations:

· The consumer is changing. It is estimated that today there are around 3.5m vegans in the UK, rising from 540,000 in 2016 and 150,000 in 2006. This is a dramatic change and the trend will continue. It is estimated that there will be 7m vegans by 2021. It is estimated 22m people are reducing their meat intake in the UK alone.

· Nutrition is one of the key central planks for mental welfare and this issue has come to the fore in a major fashion – 1:4 are suffering from anxiety, stress or mental welfare in work today. Last year, 80,000 students alone at University received treatment for their mental welfare costing close to £40m – up 40% in the last 5 years. There are those that argue that the rise is just due to the increase in awareness but it is likely to be a bit of a deeper issue and one that maybe asks for greater thought in what needs to be done to help future talent. One has to note that the fees for University have gone up but so has the pressure on the young. How can enhanced services play a stronger role in this area?

· What will government policy be towards State Education and free school meals?

· We are aware of the issue of obesity in the young? Food Service can play a leading role but it needs support.

· Coffee today in all environments is growing in importance and this year coffee sales will exceed beer sales for the first time. (Brad Barritt, the captain of Saracens and former England player, founded Tiki Tonga Coffee as coffee is what brings people together)

· The workplace is arguably struggling at the moment. 63% of employees do not trust in their leadership. By 2022, it is estimated that 40% of employees will opt out and be part of the GiG economy. Only 11% of employees are engaged in their work (Gallup)

· There is an issue over UK productivity. In theory it lags 15% behind other G7 countries.

· Thank you to those of you that have highlighted The Stoddart Review in 2016 which revealed that an effective workplace can improve business productivity by as much as 3.5%. Economist Duncan Weldon believes that could add up to £70 billion to the UK economy

· Only 53% of UK respondents, in this study, agree that their workplace enables them to work productively

The food service sector as food today plays such an important role in daily life. Yes the operators feel pressurised and understandably desire calmer waters.

All this together paints a hardly flattering picture of life across Universities or in the workplace – but it does provide an opportunity for the food service sector.

The food service brings people together, it is most people’s moment of self-indulgence and relaxation and this creates the opportunity.

Food service sector as food today plays such an important role in daily life. Yes the operators feel pressurised and understandably desire calmer waters. There are many companies that do understand how important a role that food service plays and would like to see better but everyone is being affected by the perfect storm that has come together.

It is therefore logical that we need to find new ideas, thinking and innovation to solve some of the problems and there are many that are growing. There are many delivered in models that are growing and showing impressive results. There is new technology that is coming to the fore that will change much in food service. But still more is needed. Change is happening and the food service sector needs a voice and message to get its own story heard amongst all the change.