With Michelle Tansley, support service assistant, Olive Catering Services.
What is your current role and what does it entail?
My job is a multifaceted role as I provide support for sites where team members have to take long periods of absence. The role changes each time depending on which job role needs support.
As I’m part of the Olive team, I have a great understanding of how its restaurants run so I can go into a site and automatically know what needs doing. It’s also a lot more helpful for teams to have someone who knows what they’re doing – it really helps keep service running smoothly!
Why did you want to work in foodservice?
My interest was inspired by my mum. When my sister and I were growing up, she would always made sure everything she cooked was fresh – even down to homemade birthday cakes every year. Growing up with that ethos, working with Olive seemed a natural fit as we make every dish from scratch. Clients don’t want their employees to eat a frozen burger or chips, so the fact that we can make them fresh makes a massive difference and I really enjoy creating exciting but nutritious food for customers.
What education, training and competitions have you undertaken to get this far?
I am currently doing a commis chef course and am about to enter the Challenge stages at the end. I’m proud to be the first person at Olive to be finishing this course and hope it inspires others within the company to do the same.
Further to formal training qualifications, we do an area competition for all the teams; the last one I did was coming up with new ideas for Christmas cakes. It was amazing to see everyone’s unique ideas come to life.
How could B&I businesses attract more rising stars into the sector?
B&I businesses need to show the advantages of work-based learning, such as apprenticeships. You can gain a vast amount of knowledge from work-based learning and it gives people the chance to meet key people within the foodservice industry.
Many catering companies are keen to help people within their business progress because of the insightful knowledge that they have learnt while working which they can then bring to their wider teams. With this in mind, it’s important to showcase the perks of apprenticeships, and longevity of potential careers, to attract new talent into the industry.
What do you enjoy about the industry?
One aspect of the industry that I love is the flexibility to move around and meet completely new people because you get to learn tried-and-tested tricks of the trade. Everyone’s got a tip that they live by that usually proves to be invaluable!
I also enjoy the hands-on approach our industry encourages, like tasting food as you make it, and sharing dishes to get everyone’s opinion. We often undertake Olive Food Innovation Team [FIT] meetings, where we brainstorm as a team and come up with new cuisine ideas. We recently did a vegan-themed FIT meeting, where we challenged ourselves to show new aspects of vegan food and create a dish that is completely unexpected, such as using frequently used ingredients, like potatoes, to create a new and exciting recipe.
How do you think the industry could improve?
I think creative marketing could really help give the industry a boost, especially within workplace catering. Sometimes companies just expect people to use your catering facilities because you’re in the building, but caterers need to shout out about the amazing foodservice they offer. Caterers can especially take advantage of this around Christmas time, when you find people who don’t usually use a canteen will visit for a festive meal. If you use that opportunity to showcase how good your food is, customers will start coming back for more.
What trends do you predict for the future?
I think the use of sustainable food, such as honey, will be a big trend. People are much more environmentally conscious now, so they will look for caterers that promote these values.
I also think that, as weird as it sounds, fried insects as a pop-up food will be everywhere. These experiences are now much more accessible and people are open to trying new things. A few years ago you probably wouldn’t eat a food that you now eat every single day and wouldn’t think twice about.
What is your biggest ambition?
With Olive, I aspire to progress to management so I can show the skills I’ve learnt during my current role and utilise them to further support others. A support management role is completely different to my current job because you have to consider the health and safety aspects of a kitchen, for example, as well as your cooking. This type of challenge would push me out of my comfort zone and inspire me to create new ways to help advance the operation side of the business.