The government has recently announced that it’s safe to return to the workplace. There’s a lot of coverage and discussion about how to reopen catering safely.  Many catering outlets have successfully reopened on the High Street; from pubs to hotels and fast food to high end restaurants. However, we continued catering for essential organisations (about 15% of our clients) during the Covid-19 lockdown.

I am feeling very positive now as many more clients start to phase or plan their employees’ return to the workplace. Our catering teams can go back to doing what they love; serving fantastic food and drink to our customers.

Customer appreciation of catering for essential organisations

During the lockdown we catered for workers in health, education and vital infrastructure. These organisations and their teams provided essential services to keep the UK going. Our customers told us catering at work provided a welcome feeling of ‘normality’.

I made a short thank you video and shared it on our internal communication tool Yapster at the peak of the lockdown restrictions. It was mostly  to thank team members who were working and also recognise them as our trailblazers.

Lessons learned

Our teams’ experience of catering during lockdown has been invaluable. From them we learnt how to create safe environments for our teams and customers. These lessons helped us write policies, procedures and a toolkit to implement across all our sites as they reopen.

My colleague Anna Clegg worked with our teams, clients and customers to develop a robust remobilisation planner. This planner has continued to evolve as we learned more about how to operate differently. It reflects the ongoing changes to policy and guidance from Government. At the last count we were at version 12 of the planner!  We moved quickly and implemented best practices and even worked with our competitors. We also set up a Covid-19 Info Hub to provide one place for clients, customers, team members and the wider industry to access support and information.

New ways of working

These are some of the main changes we made;

  • Every team member must complete a daily health declaration system via an app before leaving for work each day.
  • Launched a payment app system called PearPay with the capability to offer pre-pay, click and collect, delivery and time slot bookings. It’s designed to help manage queues, improve the ability for social distancing and minimise face to face interaction.
  • Provided a delivered-in catering service.
  • Introduced sneeze screens, floor markings and signage.
  • Relocated restaurant furniture and altered restaurant exit/entrance and flows
  • Enhanced our cleaning and sanitising processes.
  • Flexed the team’s operational hours to meet the needs of our customers’ temporarily changed working hours.

With the help of feedback from teams catering for essential organisations during lockdown we reviewed all our workplace risk assessments. As a result we were able to deliver every service safely and in line with Covid secure guidelines. Our teams have redesigned menus to reflect changes to how we provide hot drinks and hot food, grab and go ranges, snacks and hospitality offers. Several sites continued serving hot food all the way through lockdown.

Trailblazers

With the help of teams working onsite we have developed a training plan for all our team members. It covers all the mandatory and best practice safe working measures and gives guidance for customers of what to expect.

Organisations who were designated ‘essential’ to remain open throughout lockdown have been fundamental in helping us evolve to meet the changing needs. The team members who carried on  working to cater for the essential workers are our trailblazers and we are proud of them all!

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