Making movement. Introducing Stephen Waterman, MD, Food & Hospitality, ISS

The client and the customer have changing desires and so more is being asked of the caterer. It can be challenging to find the balance with the offer but ISS is throwing down the gauntlet with the appointment of Stephen Waterman as Managing Director of Food & Hospitality. With vast experience in the world of fitness, sport, health and wellbeing, Stephen is bringing a new dimension to the traditional offer.

New to the sector, Stephen brings a fresh perspective and crafted experience in a strong move by ISS.

When one meets Stephen he is an engaging man just three months into his new position. He has clearly embraced ISS and the industry despite not having worked in the traditional hospitality and catering world.

Stephen’s background includes working in both the leisure management contract business and the private fitness and wellbeing sector – including a number of years with the Virgin group; where he won awards and plaudits for transforming their food and nutrition proposition. Latterly, he was responsible for strategy, leadership and performance for brand, products, food and beverage, membership, sales and retention in contract management with local authorities, national bodies and corporate clients, whereby it is clear one of his strengths lies in delivering shared outcomes for clients and customers through cementing true partnerships.  

Whilst new to the sector, Stephen has already witnessed much and can see where the opportunities lie. “Gone are the days of a straightforward contract. A caterer must work with the client to support them with their overall needs – much more outcome and partnership focused than traditional input based contract management. Health and wellbeing are clearly also essential to the overall offer from a caterer and ISS wants to play more than a keen role here and be at the forefront.” Stephen also adds, “Hospitality has a massive part to play – it is essential we support our clients by looking after their people in general, supporting beyond just their normal working hours.”

ISS is showing their true colours with the appointment of Stephen. Shortly before his move, he was conducting research and implementing strategies in the fitness, health and wellbeing and leisure world which itself has been going through a huge change recently. He explains, “Fitness has changed dramatically again in the last few years in very different ways. We witnessed a change from the number of treadmills you could fit into a space, to ‘how much functional space can we make and where can we add fun and innovation’. Alongside this has been the entry of new competition, bringing different ways, operating models and propositions to the market and there has been the explosion of technology in the form of fitness, health and wellbeing apps, wearable monitors, watches and trackers. In the contract management this also saw a seismic shift to being a true partner with clients in helping them achieve their wider outcomes. I believe the hospitality and foodservice sector is seeing a similar set of movements with changing demands, market disrupters, customer expectations, technology, innovation and the need to support and work with our clients as a true partner across a wider remit than just being a contract caterer.”

Why has the market changed?

“Millennials are playing a role in the changing scene. Our skill at ISS is understanding the changes and providing a service which suits various demographics. We will always provide an excellent food offer and now go beyond that too. One of the biggest changes is the expectation from the workforce of today in being looked after by their company in different ways to the traditional breakfast and lunchtime feeding. This is demonstrated by the recent growth of the grazing food trend, sharing boards, increased snacking options and street food stalls, which are all signs of an increasing need for going beyond the traditional set meals of the day. We need to continue to adapt by matching and exceeding trends and be ahead of the game. Talk has already turned to the expectation of ‘centennials’ who are now entering the workplace”

“ISS want to be leaders in truly engaging with companies and their workforces. We are a global company with amazing research taking place across the world in workplace trends. We are using these insights and learnings so we can be different and truly anticipate the future. We are also including our colleagues from all aspects of the business – from restaurant designers through to corporate responsibility – we must all work together.”

Stephen will explore many aspects of the overall offer and is constantly asking questions on how they can get people collaborating, engaging, mixing and generally being more agile in their workplaces. He will also be working closely with other parts of the business, including with Stephanie Hamilton who has recently moved to the role of Director of People and Culture UK.

Internally Stephen is keen to look after the wellbeing of his teams working at ISS. “It’s important we practice what we preach and so look after own people’s health and wellbeing to support their lifestyles too. I’ve been impressed by the number of our team I’ve met who are actively engaged and aware of this for themselves and their teams. Meeting chefs and teams who take part in – and even teach – yoga and exercise classes has been fantastic to find.”

Caterers must provide healthy choices but Stephen is also aware they cannot solely focus on this; it still must be about choice for the consumer and the client’s needs. He states it doesn’t have to be a difficult balance to achieve. “We look at the high street example because that has both options. Employees in the workplace – are the very same people who use these and have these same desires – we can learn from this and bespoke our offer by using research, relationships and technology. Going forward and as we embrace technology and close integrated management tools, we can know the exact numbers of people on a site during a day and can tailor our offer to suit – amongst many benefits this also sees us saving on waste and able to support businesses in their corporate responsibility around this. Social media and other forms of feedback technology provide us with instant feedback now and we use this to plan, as well as react and respond. There is more information available than ever before in regards to trends, consumer choice, opinions and what’s working; we are using with all of this – along with traditional data – to deliver the proposition, offerings and service that is now wanted.”

Stephen comes across as someone who has been in the job for longer than a few months. Assured and calm, he has already visited a vast majority of the clients and sites ISS work with. It’s clearly important for him to meet the team and see the locations where the company operates – something he places strong personal value on. He may have the large brand behind him but Stephen knows the importance of the personal approach and strong relationships.

When asked about the sector he has come into Stephen stresses he has been made to feel very welcome and has met with many competitors, consultants and suppliers already. “In regards to other businesses, yes we are competing but we all face the same challenges and my personal belief is that the industry needs to continue to work together as a strong unified voice in areas such as Brexit, government support and lobbying, rising costs, the evolving workforce and the importance of the sector.”

As customers ask more than from their companies, this in-turn puts pressure on the caterer to think differently and be able to support their clients. Stephen and ISS understand this and are clearly prepared to go to the lengths needed to exceed expectations. The wellbeing of people is essential for a successful company and this applies for both the clients who are looked after and the teams providing the offer. With a background of people support and a very clear sense of the future, ISS will feel confident with Stephen guiding the next few years.

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