Aiming high after locking down

Mine is one of the million-plus families who’ve been shielding. We’ve really missed our interactions with the outside world over the last few months – and good food, drink and service are what I’m looking forward to most, as we get back out there. My expectations are high. Here’s why.

As people emerge from the ‘stay at home challenge’, I believe many will be expecting – and demanding – much more from the hospitality industry. And as a longstanding member of that industry, I say: let’s rise to it. Let’s return to the essentials, remember that the customer is King (or Queen), and give our guests an experience to remember.

Because – from silver service and table-side cooking to newspaper-wrapped fish and chips – there are some things you just can’t get at home and I can’t wait to enjoy them again. These are the things that will be worth celebrating as we leave the safe havens of our homes. So, as we all head into the ‘new normal’, let’s not forget the ‘old’.

In the last 123 days at home, my family and I have (almost) perfected homemade pasta and have grown our own vegetables from seeds. We can now make authentic Chinese and Indian meals from scratch, and I’m finally just about used to drinking coffee made from my own machine rather than a regular flat white. I’ve also not had a takeaway meal, pre-packed sandwich or barista-made coffee, or had a meal cooked for me by anyone else, for nearly a third of year. 

At the same time, along with the rest of the senior team at Compass and to support the wider business, I took a pay cut and reduced my hours (although not necessarily my output!). So, when I return to the workplace soon, with less money in my pocket, and still feeling cautious about the risks (as so many of us are), the food and drink I enjoy over the working day will be especially significant. In fact, I want it to be second-to-none.

This is our chance to return to the first principles our industry was built on and create first-class experiences that guests simply can’t get anywhere else. By doing that, we can make the return to work that much better for everyone.

So, what are we doing at Eurest, to live up to this moment?

1: Shifting our culture: My Operations team and I have hosted regular weekly calls with all client sites that are open and trading. We’ve stripped reporting layers right back, to ensure that key messages are delivered directly to the front line rather than through lengthy cascades of information.

2. Embracing tech: As part of the Compass family, Eurest have benefited from the game-changing acquisition of Feedr, and I am excited to offer our clients a new table-booking and pre-order app that will improve customer experience and ensure safety.

Meanwhile, our established ‘Did We Make You Smile?’ digital feedback system is currently recording industry-leading Net Promoter Scores, that we share directly with our clients.

3: Re-thinking our menus: Our Culinary Director Ryan Holmes and his team have been busy building new menus that reflect changing customer expectations. The focus is on great, healthy food that makes it easy to eat well, whether new creations or old favourites. Of course, we’ll be ensuring we maintain choice and value for money.

4. Re-mobilising and retraining: We are effectively remobilising every client site before our customers return. As part of this process, all of our front line teams will complete additional safety and customer service training.

5. Supporting performance : At Eurest, our entire offer is designed to support personal, team and company performance, enhancing productivity through healthy eating. It’s something that we’re all proud of – and it’s set to be more important than ever, as we move into this post-lockdown era.

For all the other “shielders” out there, and all those who’ve made sacrifices, I salute you. I hope you’re as excited as I am about getting back into the outside world, and enjoying great food, drink and service once more.