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Heather Townsend

The Excedia Group

Director

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Can companies learn from the catering industry’s failures?

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Recently I have found myself talking a lot about the difficulty I find when eating out due to being a dairy intolerant coeliac. (Don't try this one at home, guys and gals!) Because I refuse to stay at home and be a hermit, (plus I have a company to run where a certain amount of lunching is par for the course...) eating out, for me, brings a whole host of risks which most of us don't ever need to think about.

My personal trauma is event catering - particularly the hot and cold buffet events, as well as canapes... You may, along with many caterers think, that labelling every dish for common food allergies/intolerances such as dairy, gluten and nuts is totally overboard. For me, it's literally the difference between being able to enjoy a meal at the event and having a long and exhausting conversation with serving staff (who normally are clueless) about what is or isn't okay for me to eat.  In case you are wondering, I always do go out of my way to tell my hosts about my dietary requirements - but this doesn't normally make any difference because of one simple thing that seems to be lacking with the catering at conferences, weddings etc.

Yes, just one minute detail. End-to-end communication. For some reason the message about me and my dietary requirements never quite makes it from the event organiser all the way to the chef and the serving staff - many of whom I suspect have just been temporarily hired for the event.

You are probably wondering why I am having a rant about this, and how this is relevant for you as a company or business reading this. Actually it is very relevant - and I will now explain why.

Very often on a large piece of client work, such as training day for a large company, we will pull in team members from all over the company - in fact often utilising others from our partner companies. We may never work alongside some of these people in the future, but we have to deliver on this job to the client's exacting requirements - some of which, like my food intolerances, we may think are rather fussy and a little over the top. (Do we really need to label every dish?)  As someone running the job there may be a couple of layers of management between you and those on the ground actually doing the work - similar to the event organiser, the serving staff and the staff in the kitchen actually prepping the food.

1. How well are you briefing your team on the client's detail and explaining why they want things in this way?
2. Are you checking that this message is being communicated all the way to every single member of the team?
3. Are you having regular team meetings at key stages in the project to make sure that the whole team has been properly briefed?

If these three questions were answered yes, then I would find eating out at events a pleasure again, and I also suspect your client projects run more smoothly.

What do you think?

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Heather Townsend

Director

Read more from Heather Townsend
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