How was 2019 for your B&I business?
We have seen another fantastic year of growth at BM. Despite the ongoing societal and political challenges, we have continued to develop our business in line with our sustainable growth strategy. As part of this, we have invested heavily in our resources and infrastructure – this includes our people, training, as well as the technology and processes we now use. These have all been geared towards ensuring that we maintain our ‘FOODIES’ values and keep the business fundamentally about food.
As is the case with much of the industry, recruitment and team retention has become a major focus area this year. As a progressive business, we know that engaged team members are more committed to the BM business and have more fun. Therefore, it has been vital for us to ensure that we have also introduced technology that supports all team members and helps them share successes and food ideas with the whole of the BM family – this helps us to achieve greater engagement. Our Yapster app has increased the level of communication across the business. We’ve had a more than 83% adoption rate across the whole BM family, with more than 50% of team members Yapping daily!
This year we have also been delighted to both promote from within and appointed some incredibly talented team members into the BM family.
The wider food service sector has seen some significant changes, with consolidation being a key theme. Larger players in the market have continued to acquire many small and mid-sized caterers, which has naturally impacted our position in the market.
As one of the only truly independent businesses of our size, particularly without external investors, means we still have the autonomy and agility of a small business. We have been able to differentiate ourselves from our competitors.
As we move into 2020, and whatever that may bring both politically and geo-politically, we look ahead at changes in legislation with Natasha’s Law implementation, and introducing a number of new food concepts to our business. I’d love to share more but Pete, our chef director, would probably kill me!
During 2019, we’ve seen what once could be considered new developments, really embed themselves as part of the norm. Healthy eating is a now a daily focus and technology has infiltrated into contract catering. Customers are becoming more accustomed to pre-ordering food or beverages, so they are either ready and waiting for collection, or delivered directly to their meeting room.
Whether it’s for health and wellbeing or ethical reasons people are now paying more attention to what they eat. With more people choosing to follow a vegan or vegetarian diet and 14% of the population considering themselves ‘flexitarians’i, we’ve continued to adapt our menus to offer more choice. Conscious eating, considering what effects certain diets and ingredients have, not just the body, but the mind too, is fast becoming part of the wellbeing strategy for individuals and our corporate clients.
Catering is playing a bigger role in staff acquisition and retention strategies as more employees prioritise health and wellbeing benefits ahead of financial gain. People expect healthier and wider food choices and knowledge about nutritional content to be provided as standard.
Many new buildings and refurbished workspaces promote collaborative engagement and staff restaurants are now not only a place where people come to eat lunch. They are used as break out areas and meeting spaces, so caterers have had to adapt to these workplace changes. People no longer want to be restricted by eating times either. With an ‘always on’ culture influenced by technology and things being accessible at the click of the button, people expect to eat whenever they want. Our restaurants now offer a continuous and varied fresh food service that runs throughout the day, also influencing a change in labour and shift patterns.
Vacherin has always been a pioneer in sustainability but now the foodservice sector as a whole is providing more sustainable solutions to meet the demand. CSR and social value is a huge consideration when selecting a catering partner. One of the first questions our clients ask us is ‘What are you doing about food waste?’. Customers also want to know about the provenance of their food and are looking for plastic-free packaging. Clients have their own sustainability initiatives in place and want to know how their business partnerships can support these objectives.
People are travelling far and wide and they’re eating delicious new cuisines as they go. This, together with the exposure to ever-increasing global flavours from the street food scene has spearheaded the expectation for authenticity of ingredients, flavours and menu composition. Ensuring we can always surprise and delight out customers with unique flavours as well as meeting the demand for source-to-plate sustainability, is what makes catering such a compelling sector to be a part of. 2019 has been a year of combining creativity and real skill and we are excited to see where that leads us in 2020.