Catering is ‘emotive' and needs to be ringfenced from other facilities management (FM) services, according to a panel of experts from the food and FM industries.
Speaking at a roundtable event last week, consultants operating in the workplace, healthcare, education and leisure sectors discussed issues concerning total facilities management (TFM) and the scope of catering within FM contracts.
The panel concluded that catering plays a vital role in influencing productivity and should be an integral part of a company's wellbeing strategy.
The event, hosted by independent caterer Bartlett Mitchell, aimed to identify key issues facing catering and FM businesses over the coming year.
Chaired by Bartlett Mitchell CEO Ian Thomas, the panel also discussed how catering can support recruitment and retention, enhance brand value and facilitate better collaboration in the workplace.
Thomas said: "People are far more educated about food these days, which can make it a very emotive issue. They understand how dishes are made, what produce is used and the impact it can have on their bodies. This makes them better placed to make a judgement on food than most other FM services, so it's incredibly important for businesses to ensure that they have the right offer as part of their workplaces and buildings."
He added: "Businesses are also very aware of how brand perception can impact performance and productivity, which is why we are seeing so much focus on creating and developing collaborative and engaging environments. Employers know that prospective employees are looking for more than just a salary.
"In addition, catering as part of TFM means it can sometimes become commoditised, which could result in the loss of focus and create potential reputational risk."
Chris Stern, managing director, Stern Consultancy, added: "Catering is one of the only services clients' personnel have to pay for directly. This in itself means that an additional level of scrutiny is applied when making a judgement on its quality. That's why, on most occasions, there should be extra consideration given to using specialist catering providers as part of an overall FM tender."
Julian Fris, director of the facilities management consultancy, Neller Davies, said: "It's important for FM leads to look at their catering offer as more than just another service line. It can be used to aid broader wellness objectives, as well as create commercial and reputational currency among its employees and other stakeholders. Whilst there will always be debate and discussion around using specialist versus TFM providers, it's important to note that there is no one size fits all solution."
The caterer employs more than 830 people at 85 locations for a wide range of clients in business, education and healthcare.