Arena lunches have always been the place to be when it comes to networking in the foodservice industry and as the leading foodservice agency we make sure we are there to hear the latest from industry figures and more recently regular insight updates (a great edition to the format). The last Arena lunch played host to both an insight presentation from YouGov and a face to face interview with Debbie White, Sodexo UK & Ireland’s Chief Exec, no less! As a rostered creative agency for Sodexo we were particularly interested to hear what Debbie had to say, but before the main event of the day we were treated to a talk from Stephen Harmston, who heads up YouGov reports, on their latest foodservice findings including everything from care homes to prisons.
Unsurprisingly, the research showed food in care homes should be nutritious, high quality and provided with a flexible service – many residents need help eating and drinking and would like snacks to be readily available throughout the day. With an ageing population, care is a growing sector and although catering needs improving, care home food is still seen as better than what NHS hospitals offer. Hospital food has recently been given a bit of a dressing down, but fewer patients in 2013 described hospital food as inedible than two years ago as well as more patients saying it’s more well balanced and healthier in 2013. Perhaps more positively is that half of hospital patients would pay something for fresh ingredients and foods with higher nutritional values, with 42% suggesting a sum of £1-£2 being a reasonable amount to pay. University caterers have also got work to do with two-thirds of all students trying to eat healthier but campus and in-hall food felt of as not nutritious by the majority of students. Students also use local supermarkets, sandwich shops and convenience stores in order to save money and get better quality. Prison food is always a controversial issue with more than half of us believing that prisoners should not be allowed to be able to pay for a better standard of meal. Overall common themes across government sectors are willingness of consumers to pay more for better quality and a wider choice of food to be made available. Some food for thought, looks like we’ve got a long way to go in most sectors to meet the demands of diners.
If you missed out on this interesting presentation you can view the slides here.
Then it was onto the face to face as Alistair Stewart interviewed Debbie White to see what makes the Chef Exec of one of the UK foodservice market’s biggest employers tick. From Papau New Guinea onto Cambridge, via a short stint at Arthur Anderson followed by PWC, then it was onto Sodexo. She initially joined the contract catering giant as a finance director, but soon rose up the ranks to CFO America. With an inspiring mix of intelligence, ambition and leadership Debbie is passionate about the wider team at Sodexo and truly appreciates how Sodexo employees are ambassadors for the brand. She is also keen to ensure, despite Sodexo’s scale, that they remain true to their ethics and CSR led Better Tomorrow Program. As for the future she is very positive and would like to see more innovation across the sector. She is clearly a woman at the top of her game in what can be a very male dominated world, indeed Debbie White more than holds her own and is clearly dedicated to ensuring the success of Sodexo, building on its excellent 95% client retention over the past three years in a market which sees ever more competition.
As ever Alistair Stewart managed to bring out both business and personal insights during his face to face interview and the event as a whole was a triumph for Arena, well done to Lorraine and the team. We look forward to the next event on 1st December – the official start of Christmas in the industry! For more information visit http://www.arena.org.uk/event/887
Market insight source: YouGov
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