Foodservice Forum: the formula for success

Foodservice Forum: the formula for success

Delegates at The Caterer's Foodservice Forum, held in June in association with Cartwheel Recruitment, were given the common attributes of those at the top of their field. Janie Manzoori-Stamford reports on the day's hottest topics

In a world of seven billion people, just a few hundred thousand can be described as successful. But what is it about these relative few that make them a cut above the rest? And can the recipe for success help your business?

According to the The Caterer's Foodservice Forum's opening keynote speaker, Sarah Linton, director of assessment at occupation psychologist and HR consultancy Zircon Management, it comes down to attitude. To find out what constitutes a winner, Zircon spoke to 42 well-known names across business, sports and the media, including Innocent Drinks co-founder Douglas Lamont, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and Olympic swimmer Mark Foster.

Foodservice Forum keynote speaker Sarah Linton
Foodservice Forum keynote speaker Sarah Linton
"It actually isn't about where you come from," Linton said. "A lot of the people we spoke to created their own opportunities."

The study identified 10 winning attributes, such as burning ambition or disruptive thoughts (see below) that were prevalent among the interviewees.

"What do these attributes mean for you as an individual? Do you need all 10 to be successful?" asked Linton. "It's useful if you have some, but what you need to do is think about what it means for your business and your staff."

Linton advised an approach that begins with recognising your business's goal and communicating that vision to others. Then look at your talent to identify where the potential is before working out how your team's attributes might operate together most effectively.

"If you focus on people gaps and development areas, they will not perform as well as if you help them thrive through their strengths," said Linton, arguing that this is the difference between effective and high performers.

"For decades, organisations have demanded that their people perform against every capability; that everything is equally important. But is that your reality? Do you need to be good at everything? That just creates vanilla leaders," she said. "If you can create an environment where people want to come to work, are interested in being there and are aligned to the same common purpose, you are much more likely to have a successful organisation."

The problem with protein

Planet earth has a protein problem and caterers can go a long way to supporting the solution, according to a panel of experts at the 2017 Foodservice Forum. The world's population is expected to increase by a staggering 22% between now and 2040 and the question is: how can we feed nine billion people enough protein in a way that is affordable, healthy and good for the environment?

Mike Hanson of BaxterStorey
Mike Hanson of BaxterStorey

e Hanson, head of sustainable business at BaxterStorey, outlined the reason for his company's involvement in the challenge: "As the UK's largest independent caterer, we have the opportunity to be flexible and drive agendas within our business, which hopefully will spill out to our competitors," he said. "The bigger picture is, everyone should be doing it."

So why is it so important? Bruno Loubet, whose King's Cross restaurant the Grain Store has been lauded for its efforts to make vegetables rather than meat the stars of its dishes, put it simply: "The production of meat protein strips a lot of strength out of the planet, which is a massive issue. People are eating more and more meat and it's unsustainable."

While the issue is vast, Jacqueline Culleton, head of comms and networks at Forum for the Future, shared notes of optimism, particularly around the Protein Challenge's Future Plates campaign, which looks to increase plant-based protein consumption among consumers.

"We felt that one of the key ways of doing that was to work with chefs, who are huge influencers and barometers of food culture in the UK," she explained. "We're seeing really high levels of engagement and people who are doing amazing stuff, but who also realise that the wider chef community could do with a bit of inspiration. There's a huge opportunity to work with foodservice restaurants and chefs because that's where we can get huge scale."

Isabelle Kelly of Quorn
Isabelle Kelly of Quorn

belle Kelly, research associate at Protein Challenge partner Quorn, said the Cateys Menu of the Year sponsor is involved in three areas: understanding its product; understanding consumer behaviour change; and direct engagement and education. She said: "We know it is not just about us. The issue is much wider. It has to be about dietary change."

Building a reputation

"It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it," said American business magnate Warren Buffett. And a broken reputation may possibly be repaired, according to English bishop Joseph Hall, "but the world will always keep their eyes on the spot where the crack was".

These and other pearls of wisdom were shared by Matthew Smallwood, managing partner of capital markets at internal communications consultancy Instinctif Partners, as he introduced his half of a two-part session on building and protecting your brand reputation, and crisis management.

According to Smallwood, there are 10 rules of reputation (see panel), which combine how you are seen and how you want to be seen. Applying these rules can transform a business, he said, while ignoring them can sabotage it. But building an enviable brand reputation is just one half of the challenge. Maintaining it and being prepared to deal with a crisis "when, not if" it comes along to threaten a brand is vital too.

Victoria Cross of Instinctif
Victoria Cross of Instinctif

toria Cross, managing partner of business resilience at Instinctif Partners, outlined the evolution of crisis management thanks to the speed with which information can be shared. "We used to talk about the Golden Hour - the 60 minutes that organisations had to get their act together after something had happened," she explained. "Today, it's instant.

"The majority of the counsel that and I my team give to clients is about what you should be doing way ahead of that critical moment to make sure you have the right processes and, crucially, the right culture in place to nurture and protect your reputation through some bumps in the road."

Cross then outlined research by Oxford Metrica, which analysed data from a selection of high-profile reputational crises and found that the organisations could be split into two groups of either winners and losers, with no one in between.

"The distinction between what made a winner or a loser were the crucial first few moments and hours of how that crisis was seen to being dealt with," she said.

"Companies of all sizes can be forgiven for things going wrong. Often it's owing to circumstances that are completely out of their control. But what can't be forgiven is a lack of professionalism, resourcefulness and effectiveness in what you then do to manage that situation, as well as the safety of your employees and others affected by it."

Adventure time

Jamie Ramsay (right)
Jamie Ramsay (right)

ie Ramsay - known as the UK's answer to Forrest Gump - dazzled and delighted the Foodservice Forum crowd with tales of his life as an endurance adventurer. After 12 years working in the City, he quit his desk job and embarked on a solo run from Vancouver to Buenos Aires, driven by a desire to live life on his own terms. And in doing so, he raised money for the Campaign Against Living Miserably, Macmillan and Water Aid.

To put this feat of endurance into relatable perspective, Ramsay outlined the numbers: he ran 17,000km in 600 days, which involved 367 days of running, averaging 46km a day; he travelled through 14 countries across two continents and burned through 5,000 calories a day and 17 pairs of running shoes. All while pushing a stroller containing everything Ramsay needed to survive and succeed.

But how does this epic adventure relate to foodservice and the wider hospitality industry? According to Ramsay, the two worlds are very similar: "When you're pitching your business, you have to decide what it will be. I have to decide what my adventure will be. It has to be the right adventure; it has to be something that captures people's imaginations."

Financing and timing are crucial to both business and adventure, he added, while uncertainty of income, self-doubt, negativity and loneliness are common challenges among entrepreneurs and adventurers alike.

"And dealing with competition. The importance of getting your message right is very stark when you think [adventurer] Levison Wood has walked, with a guide carrying his stuff, less than half the distance I have run. And he has a Clinique sponsorship, three TV shows and three books.

"That's because he is better at marketing himself, he has a better team behind him and a better message. That's something I need to work on. I've realised that everything that I was trying to escape the City for, I now have to put back into this!"

Food for thought

  • 75% of the food we eat comes from 12 plants and five species of animal
  • One in three people suffer from malnutrition
  • 794 million people suffer from hunger
  • 1.9 billion people overeat
  • 600 million people are obese
  • 1/3 of food produced for consumption is wasted

Top 10 winning attributes

  • Burning ambition
  • Dogged determination
  • Realistic optimism
  • Unwavering belief
  • Intrinsic generosity
  • Mutual respect
  • Maximising opportunities
  • Disruptive thought
  • Constant curiosity
  • Single-minded focus

Call to action: adopt a school

The original premise for the Royal Academy of Arts' Chefs Adopt a School programme was to attract young people into a rewarding career in hospitality. But as Alex Taylor, training manager at caterer Harrison's, explained to the room at King's Place, the rewards an organisation can reap by taking part are immense.

Harrison's Catering Services, which operates predominantly in the education sector, has been delivering the Chefs Adopt a School training initiative at its participating client sites since 2013, driven by what Taylor described as a close alignment between the programme and the company's business model.

"We were founded on fresh, healthy and nutritious and food, so the messages being delivered by Adopt a School really resonated with what we do," he said. "It's a really great opportunity to support food education and to encourage children to try new food and experiences."

From a business perspective, it enables Harrison's to offer a point of difference and add value to its clients, while supporting its chefs' and its school cooks' personal and professional development.

"We've seen some of our people who have gone through the training to deliver the programme on sites grow enormously in their confidence and ability," he said. "And, finally, it's great fun."

Sara Jayne Stanes of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts
Sara Jayne Stanes of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts

a Jayne Stanes, chief executive at the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts, told Forum delegates how the ambition behind the programme had evolved since its inception in 1990.

"The idea behind Adopt a School was of course to attract people into the hospitality industry," she said. "But now we realise that what we really need to do is to teach children about food, where it comes from, a little bit about how to cook it - though we're restricted by a lack of kitchen facilities - healthy eating, nutrition and sustainability.

"But Adopt a School teaches many more things too, like communality, teamwork, language, maths, science, geography and history. I've spoken to many teachers who say the whole curriculum could be taught through food. But then we already knew that, didn't we?"

Robert Kirby, chef-director of Lexington Catering and a long-term champion of the programme, was in the audience and shared his thoughts on why Adopt a School is so vital: "From an education point of view, it's really fulfilling," he said. "And it's great for our teams to get out and see what's going on in schools. We all have a responsibility, and if anyone from different organisations today can support the Royal Academy, they absolutely must."

Rules of reputation

  • Define what you are and what you want to be and be clear why by showcasing your business's USPs and differentials.
  • Engage with the troops, because they are your best advocates. If they don't champion your business, no one else will.
  • Have one organisational voice and join internal messaging with external. Without a consistent message, people won't believe you.
  • Listen to feedback, as it's one of the most important things that people don't do. Reputation is all about perception and sometimes lags a long way behind reality.
  • See the wood for the trees - don't get caught up with what you believe but know what is being thought about you.
  • Facts, not spin or reasons to be deceitful. Never lie because you will be found out.
  • Continuously test and challenge the vision and belief and always focus on the message, not the criticism you're hearing.

Advice from an adventurer

Jamie Ramsay
Jamie Ramsay
  1. Learn to trust in yourself and your abilities and believe that every day you will learn a little bit more.
  2. Choose who you take advice from and never let people reflect their fears on to you.
  3. Success is not just a moment in time; it is the way you should be living.

From our sponsors


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Quorn were delighted to support the Foodservice Forum. Quorn is a brand dedicated to helping you make and create an inspiring range of irresistibly tasty meals. Built on our belief in Sustainable Nutritionâ„¢ and a vision to make food that's better for us and better for the planet. For further information, visit

The Bay Tree is expanding its foodservice range and investing in developing this area of the business. The Foodservice Forum provided a platform to showcase a number of our bestselling sauces, condiments and preserves. Renowned for our unique interpretations of classic recipes, we offer a premium quality, versatile range that can be adapted on menus in a multitude of labour-saving ways. You can't beat face-to-face engagement, and attending the Foodservice Forum helped raise the Bay Tree's profile. Visit, or email

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