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The Caterer

Customers are individuals, not just numbers

26 September 2007
Customers are individuals, not just numbers

Caterers can no longer use high volume as an excuse for producing an average customer experience, says Sally Davis, managing director of NEC Group Catering

Traditionally, volume catering has been predominantly about practical logistics. Caterers have concerned themselves with controlling costs, efficient delivery and the continual supply of fresh food. The experience of individual consumers has come way down the list of things to think about.

However, as the market has adapted to increasingly sophisticated customer demands, the challenge for volume caterers has shifted. We've had to find ways of balancing visitor satisfaction with delivering a large-scale operation.

Here at the NEC Group we've made great visitor experience a critical part of our strategy for moving forward. This has flowed through into the catering team, where we believe we need to treat every customer as an individual rather than part of a mass of people, as demonstrated by looking at visitor profiles and developing key-account relationships with our organisers.

To achieve this we've looked at smaller, niche catering outlets for our inspiration. These outlets demonstrate that they listen to their customers by providing bespoke menus and high-quality personal delivery. We've recognised their quality of delivery and now apply our knowledge and experience to adapt it to be used within our volume catering.

We now focus on an idea rather than the potential logistical barriers and take it as far as we can to achieve our customers' vision. This means talking to our customers, actively listening to what they have to say and - most importantly - responding proactively to their feedback.

Among our biggest steps forward have been a £10m investment in our restaurant outlets and the introduction of environmentally friendly packaging. Customers' appetites must be more than satisfied - we want our visitors to leave our venues remembering their food experience as much as the event.

Ultimately, quality visitor experience should always be top priority - regardless of numbers.

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