Rhian Thomas, Head of Insight – Shopper and Eating Out at advocacy organisation for Commercial Insight and Social Impact, IGD, reviews Compass Group chief, Robin Mills’ recent address to the annual Arena Savoy Lecture.
The Arena Savoy Lecture returned the first time in two years, attracting 150 guests back to the impressive Lancaster Ballroom, for an evening of insight-sharing, inspiration and networking with industry colleagues whilst enjoying first-class hospitality from the iconic Savoy.
The evening began with an economic outlook – Inflation is biting* – from James Walton, Chief Economist at IGD who underlined the significant challenges that the industry is currently facing.
“Most businesses have never dealt with inflation at these levels before so don’t have the playbook ready.”
Referring to IGD’s recently-released Eating Out market forecasts, which predict that the UK market may not return to pre-Covid levels until early 2025, James explained the impact of the current landscape for businesses and individual households during this volatile cost of living crisis.
James concluded that despite the sobering context, the market has been surprisingly robust during the Covid period and the desire to eat out remains strong. The challenge now, is for businesses to provide eating out solutions that fit the current economic landscape.
This set the scene for the keynote speech from Robin Mills, Managing Director of Compass in the UK and Ireland who shared his vision for the future of the “humble, exciting, creative, gripping, hardworking, people-centred catering and outsourcing industry.”
“My appeal to you tonight is to lead the industry forward. As foodies, as clients, as customers, as suppliers and in representing the people who work in it and will work in it; let’s build an industry for the future that we can be proud of.” These were Robin’s words as he began Arena’s Savoy Lecture.
He highlighted the here and now as a transitional period for the industry and an opportunity to “get to a better place” and to “build an industry for the future”.
Robin’s vision for the future focuses on four key pillars:
- Unbelievably brilliant food – food is encouraging people back to work and driving productivity; it’s an opportunity to enhance life experiences. It’s time to invest in innovation, employing food technologists and nutritionists and spending time with farmers and suppliers. Provenance is key; regional food is having a renaissance as people reconnect with their neighbourhoods but tastes remain global.
“As life becomes more local, taste will still remain global and we can lead the culinary world”
- A great experience for our people – with more than 164,000 industry vacancies there are long-term structural improvements to be made. As an industry, we need to move beyond the minimum wage and the minimum wage mentality. It’s no place to be. As well as rewarding those hard-working people in the industry, it’s time to tap into a new source of talent – the people who are joining Amazon, Google and start-ups you haven’t even heard of yet.
“For too long, our industry has been by high performers as a short-term easy option rather than as a brilliant and fulfilling career.”
- We need to take responsibility for our impact on the planet – companies can’t succeed where society fails. Robin acknowledged that this is a vast topic, but gave the audience key points to think about. He believes there will be a revolution in company law and that we all need to work together to move forward and make tangible progress with sustainability initiatives. He highlighted the intrinsic need for education.
“We currently don’t have the green skills and green jobs to guide us through this. There is a bow wave of employment coming in this sector. Be prepared to invest in roles you haven’t yet imagined or seen.”
- Embrace tech on a new level – we have to embrace the world of digital and look for the best use of the technical solutions we have to hand. We also have to invest in new solutions. We are facing a future world where customer own their own data and can charge others to use it meaning we can design amazing food experience for them. And then there is the virtual Metaverse; we don’t know how big it will become and how much time people will spend there.
“You can’t replace the human interaction which makes our industry so magical, but if we embrace these new technologies we can create an industry with the best of both worlds which takes experience – both customers and employees – to another level.”
Robin closed his address by reminding the audience of the power and responsibility we have and our ability to bring people together; we are the great connecting industry.
“Let’s set ourselves once in a lifetime vision and goals to follow our once in a lifetime experience of the last 2 years. If we do that, we will create an industry which is truly brilliant for all of those involved.”
After an opportunity for guests to catch up over drinks and canapes in the stunning River Room they went onto enjoy an exceptional three-course meal served in the beautiful Lancaster Ballroom which included ingredients and products from the event sponsors; Nescafé, Délifrance, Britvic Soft Drinks and Unity Wines.