What has changed?

In recent weeks, EP has been running a series of features posing the question as to what has changed. Interestingly, one young food service company has challenged the norms.

As numbers begin to return to offices, many food service companies are breathing a touch easier but still a central question does persist – what has changed and are companies prepared for the changes which have taken place?

It is a fair question, especially after 18 months of low activity levels and the desperate need to see a return to strength. Many focus on the key pillars of sustainability, the employee experience and digital upgrades as being the main focal points but overall, the core models seem to have stayed relatively the same despite all the discussions.

Maybe that is just how it should be but one emerging player is challenging the norm. They have created processes which allow them to operate across a broad portfolio; in hotels, (often an area where many have struggled), in B&I, in cafes, restaurants and have created a new delivered in model which is being praised for its consistent quality.

The first lockdown was difficult for all companies, both large and small. However, it can be most especially difficult for a small company still in its infancy. One starts with such great plans and then Covid hits and everything has to change and adapt, more than once.

Balanced Food are one which has not just adapted but broken new ground.

· They are operating hotel F&B operations

· They have created a central CPU operation which is serving and supporting their B&I operations and also cafes and venues.

· They argue that their model allows for greater creativity and support in solving any staffing issues which are plaguing so many operations at this time.

· They are attracting interest from clients all across England from Somerset to Manchester to Norfolk. As clients seek new solutions, they want to find new players who can deliver that something which they feel is missing.

Has Covid then been a good or bad experience? I asked:

Mark McCann, one of the Co-founders, laughed
“Well, it was not part of the plan but maybe it has forced us to look at different options and find new solutions. It has also opened new doors of opportunity which maybe would not have been there previously. As a result, we have entered the hotel market and this is going well. We are also finding good growth in B&I”

Ian Summers, Mark’s partner and co-founder, nodded his agreement: “There will be clients who want change and something different. I think we offer that. Many do talk of how they have adapted and changed but I believe that our recent success has come down to two things. Firstly, our food is of a very high and consistent quality and secondly, our approach is to ensure a major focus on delivering what we say we will. One could say that we are almost old school in our thinking when it comes to management. We want to our team focused on the client and customers, not internals.”

“Ian is correct. Spot on,” agrees Mark. “It is our food quality that allows us to stand apart and deliver in very different operations. Whether we are operating in a hotel, in a B7I site or at an event, it is always food which makes people take notice of a company. We have spent endless hours during the restrictions working in our kitchens, creating new recipes, testing them time and again, making sure we know that we can deliver and that we are prepared. It has given us the confidence to almost compete against anyone.

I do believe that CPU and delivered in models will become more of importance as it allows for the staff onsite to focus on service and also takes the pressure off having the same labour intensive models. I don’t think it will become completely delivered in but a hybrid approach where we can be flexible in approach depending on the needs of the site and client.”

“With all the vacancies which exist across the industry, we need to have a Plan A and a Plan B for clients” noted Ian. “We have that flexibility in our model and in our capability which gives the team, and the client the confidence that we can handle any eventuality which is presented. How many times have we heard in recent weeks about operations which are having to pay large amounts to temporary agencies or struggling with low numbers? I have every sympathy but this is maybe where we do come through well. During the pandemic, we did change. We worked hard to create new processes, new food styles and new approaches. We have flexibility and as we come through to this period, we are feeling confident about the future.

Let’s be honest, too, clients will not have greater budgets to invest so our model does allow for creativity in service at a potentially lower cost. Again this flexibility in approach allows us to really support clients at this time.

Going back to your question as to whether Covid was good for us? No, of course not but it did make us work harder to almost find out what we can be and have that Plan A and Plan B for clients”

“We are fortunate in many ways,” commented Mark, “but it has been the result of a lot of hard work. What is that old saying; “Success is the result of a hundred small things being done right.” That is what Covid allowed us to do; get the one hundred small things done right and with confidence”

Mark McCann
Ian Summers