Narrative of Food Service is broadening: more than money but social and welfare impact

It is fair to say that most people connected with the Food Service industry will note that cost has been the dominant feature in winning and retaining business in recent times but there is a genuine sea change taking place.

By Chris Sheppardson, Managing Director, EP

There is a greater understanding in all markets that cost is just one part of the equation – that there needs to be a good balance between good food choice, nutrition and services levels. Companies and organizations are moving forward the agenda with strategies that only 6 months ago I was told would never happen in next decade and the speed of change is only set to become faster.

The world will not change overnight – especially with all the concerns over Brexit that we face today, but there is a genuine movement – not away from cost as that will always be important – towards looking at a boarder picture which can lead to stronger productivity and also shows a genuine care for employee, student or pupil welfare.

Maybe if Brexit goes pear shaped the above discussions will go back a few steps but there is no doubting that there is a new dimension in thinking and potentially in food service that is preparing to come through.

As with all things, change and progress will ebb and flow and whether one agrees with the above or not, the challenge for food service companies is that there are many organizations, schools and universities that do want to engage in a wider conversation – one that does embrace innovation, new food styles, nutrition and enhanced services to provide better support.

As one simple example of a change in the narrative, there is greater and greater awareness of the move towards plant food alternatives and one MD of a food service company last week approached us to discuss a stated desire to have 50% of their food offering being plant based within the next two years. I am not sure this would have even been a discussion topic 12 months ago but with all the increased discussion over the rise in veganism, it is becoming acceptable. There was even a leading food writer over the weekend who came out to note that maybe many vegans have a valid point and those breeding animals need to rethink their approach.

Whether one agrees or not, there is a change in the narrative that is taking place. It may still be words but many are looking deeper at their options, their services and there is a desire for new discussions.

Let me present just a few examples from conversations in just the last week alone following a forum that we hosted at which both Nomura Bank and Bird & Bird spoke at – it has led to a whole number of broader discussions:

One London company is developing strategy for enhancing the lifestyle support services on offer to their employees in terms of in-house yoga and Pilates sessions plus counselling for those that feel pressured and stressed combined with an enhanced concierge service and a health/nutrition led strategy for food service.

A leading University has approached us about wanting to talk about the need to create a health led food strategy for students as being a key part of their long term vision for student care.

Another food service operative has invented a whole menu that is vegan – in all over 45 dishes that can be used with recipes. Another London company has approached us to find an expert so that they learn more about the link between anxiety, stress and nutrition.

Another company spoke to us that they never truly understood the food service sector pre-occupation with cost as there is a far bigger picture – and cost – that can be influenced by great food service.

Maybe if Brexit goes pear shaped the above discussions will go back a few steps but there is no doubting that there is a new dimension in thinking and potentially in food service that is preparing to come through.