If you’re anything like me, you’re itching to get back to business. But first, complete transparency.
We’ve seen our industry turned on its head, with a high majority of client sites closing to respect social distancing measures. The recent Government announcement which outlined the ‘Roadmap’ back highlighted a milestone date for us; 8th June is the date when we can begin to reopen for those offices also opening its doors for the first time in 8 weeks.
Even this announcement doesn’t prevent the reality of the situation; this has presented the foodservice industry with arguably its biggest ever challenge, but let’s make no mistake; that challenge is by no means insurmountable.
In fact, I’d argue that the importance of our business within the modern workplace has been rubber stamped.
Since the start of the crisis, we’ve demonstrated value that goes far beyond that of simply serving food, by becoming trusted advisors to our clients in the fight against Covid-19.
The client bonds that are so crucial to a successful food service partnership have been strengthened. I truly believe that our ability to provide a controlled, yet welcoming environment (more on that later) that safeguards the health and wellbeing of our customers will breed new opportunities for growth.
Now I don’t want you to disregard this as blind optimism… We will only thrive if we adapt.
I’ve spent a while thinking this over. Around 8 weeks ago, I assembled our very own ‘back to business’ project team, confident that pooling our collective expertise and experience was our best shot at understanding what must be done. Combine this with the resource and reach that our global presence affords us, and we’re beginning to see a clearer picture.
As lockdown measures are eased and customers begin to re-enter the workplace, our initial focus must centre around empathy. Perhaps not what you were expecting but stay with me…
People will be nervous. The fear will be very real. Is it safe to go back? What’s being done to keep me safe? What risks exist to me?
Being mindful of these feelings allows us to create an environment that can help to ease those fears.
For clarity, I’m not talking about operating within an area that resembles a laboratory.
I’m saying we have a duty to make the space safe but also welcoming, which will mean getting creative about how we implement our controls. We can do so much more than floor tape and printed signs.
First and foremost, I see this as a combination of hyper-charged customer service accompanying aesthetically attractive control messaging. This isn’t to say we’re trivialising the challenges, but communicating them in a way that leaves customers feeling at ease, rather than policed.
As a minimum, we need to become custodians of our government and WHO recommended control measures, but also present the ability to scale controls up where required. Doing right by our clients and customers requires a ‘kitbag’ of solutions, wary that there’s no such thing as ‘one size fits all’ in the foodservice industry.
With that in mind, the dialogue between us and our customers requires amplifying now more than ever. Providing ways (especially through technology) to do so will further ease the transition and strengthen that understanding.
The prospect of a great meal isn’t enough anymore, customers must associate us as ambassadors of their own health.
But that’s just the beginning. I’m under no illusion that workplace restaurants will regain their buzzing communal status in the near future – but who’s to say that they need to? There’s no shortage of ways to deliver an incredible food experience beyond the confines of a traditional restaurant model.
That’s where we’ll look to Step 2, beyond empathy, to the physical and technological changes required to nourish and fuel the future workforce.
If you’re keen, I’ll be putting my thoughts out on those next week. Thanks for reading and let me know what you think.
Stay safe, Chris.