Rewards for Innovation – Compass Group's The Idea Works project

24 February 2012
Rewards for Innovation – Compass Group's The Idea Works project

Compass Group supported by Caterer and Hotelkeeper has set up an initiative to find ideas that could be turned into successful products. Janie Manzoori-Stamford explains

Compass Group is throwing opens its doors to innovation. The contract caterer, supported by Caterer and Hotelkeeper, has launched a new innovation initiative called The Idea Works.

Aimed at finding the next generation of food service, hospitality and facilities management innovation, the scheme gives small and medium-sized enterprises the opportunity to pitch their products and solutions to a boardroom of Compass judges.

The Idea Works is the brainchild of Adam O'Connor, head of central marketing for Compass and one of the expert judges. "We're looking for new, exciting products and solutions," he explains. "We want to make Compass famous for innovation."

It follows a pilot project that was run with Japanese food company Tanpopo, which had approached Compass about its noodle pot brand. After seeing the potential, Compass worked with Tanpopo to develop the recipes for the British palate.

The brand ultimately grew to be an established, nutritionally compliant product line across the business and the wider food service industry.

Caterer and Hotelkeeper will be tracking the progress of the initiative and showcasing successful businesses and their products.

Caterer and Hotelkeeper‘s group editor, Mark Lewis, says: "Caterer and Hotelkeeper has always been committed to equipping hospitality operators with the ideas and information they need to build a better business.

"The Idea Works represents a great opportunity to flag up new products that allow operators to save money or make money - and that's why we are supporting it."

Nick Vadis, Compass Group's UK executive head chef, will also sit on the judging panel and he welcomed the move to take the company's commitment to innovation a step further.

"We've always embraced small suppliers but with any big corporate, it's not always easy for new potential suppliers to know who to go to with their product.

"The idea is to enable people with a good idea or product - that historically might not have known a route into Compass - the opportunity to stand in front of the right people and present their ideas."

How it works
Ideas from small and medium-sized enterprises are submitted online at where applicants will have the opportunity to upload supporting material such as video, photography and word documents.

They will then be shortlisted into categories before the suppliers behind the best concepts are called to the boardroom to pitch their proposals.

The suppliers will each have a total of 15 minutes for their presentation: five minutes to pitch the idea followed by a 10 minute Q&A session.

"Successful applicants will then work with Compass's commercial, vendor assurance and various NPD teams to develop the products/solutions accordingly and establish suitable routes to market, explains Oliver Cock, judge and managing director for commercial at Compass Group. "After that the sky's the limit for our winning pitchers!"

In terms of products and ideas, there are no boundaries. As Nick Vadis says, it could be absolutely anything from niche food products to labour-saving equipment devices - anything to make the job easier or more productive, or to help deliver a better product.

Some of these innovations could be brought straight to market; others may be adapted in line with the requirements of the market-place and current trends.

"The opportunities for SMEs are huge and across Compass we are genuinely excited about this initiative and its potential," adds Cock.

"Essentially we are looking for highly enthusiastic presenters, pitching genuine innovations, exciting products and solution concepts.

"We're holding the first judging panel in March and I'm really looking forward to seeing the pitches and the new, entrepreneurial ideas that hopefully once developed, will wow our industry in the months and years to come."

The judging panel is subject to change depending on the product being pitched, though the core four that will be on the look out for a strong concept accompanied by a flawless pitch will be:

Adam O'Connor head of central marketing
Nick Vadis UK executive head chef
Oliver Cock managing director commercial
Steve Davies managing director support services

Meeting every quarter, they will be joined by a fifth guest judge.

Adam Nick Oli Andy
Adam Nick Oli Andy

Pictured left to right: O'Connor, Vadis, Cock and Davies

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