We must work smarter

01/12/2011 - 00:00
As businesses worldwide continue to feel the pinch, B&I catering operators are coming under pressure from clients. Bill Twigg of Midshire Catering urges the industry to get creative.

While many clients still consider that it remains a significant part of their employee welfare package, there are as many clients who would claim that during a time when their own business performance is at the mercy of a global recession, they can find more productive use for any potential catering subsidy.

It is, therefore, not surprising to find the contract catering industry is having to change - not for the first time.

Not only the way it provides feeding in its contracts, but also in its approach to cost in order to meet the expectations of either a consultant or a client.

The days of heavy and comfortable client subsidies have, along with those large manufacturing sites, well and truly disappeared, never to be replaced.

In a market that is shrinking by the week, those clients that remain, seem to like the idea of having some kind of catering service, but they want it for less.

At the same time, customer expectations have gone through the roof. And the demands on the caterer to provide high street-quality goods and a service that offers restaurant standards is rapidly becoming the norm.

Right now, with no apparent sign that the economy is going to make a swift recovery, the matter of making a profit and ultimately ensuring survival has meant that we, as caterers, have to be extremely resourceful and creative when bidding for new business – and, of course, retaining the business that we already have.

The team has to be focused, innovative and pulling in the same direction because it does not necessarily follow that lower subsidies mean that lower quality will be accepted.
What it does mean is that everyone has to work smarter and harder to manage food costs and monitor wastage.

Finding the balance between what it costs and what you offer the customer is, of course, the key.
The ideal menu style is one that offers good value, an expansive range of ‘grab & go’ items, while at the same time allowing customers the freedom to make their own choices.

How we have tackled this conundrum at Midshire Catering is to work in partnership with our suppliers to minimise the effects of spiralling food costs while, at the same time, looking to create a real open affinity with our customers and clients.

We set out from day one to stamp our mark on all of our contracts by opening clear lines of communication with our customers, tempting them with high street quality at very competitive prices and generally ensuring that our services are freshened up on a regular basis through new initiatives developed by our innovations team.

The market is tough, and every new piece of business is hard fought for.

But I believe the recipe for success in such tough times is to develop your overall service based on good standards, great food and a willingness to offer change when necessary.

The contract catering market has become a very exciting arena to be in.

It is clear that the main benefactors - if there can be any in these challenging times - are the end user, the customer and, of course, the budget holder.

Formed in November 2000, Midshire is a small, independent catering operator working throughout the UK with offices in Cheshire, Staffordshire and Swansea in South Wales.

It has contracts in B&I, schools and the public sector and 400 staff to deliver the catering service.

Co-director Bill Twigg says: “Our personal approach is what makes the organisation successful.

Our clients feel the benefit of being able to meet and speak directly with our directors who can, and will, make decisions which influence business.

“Our philosophy is simple and we aim to provide good food, competitively priced.”

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