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Foodservice Column by Jonathan Doughty.

I entitled my last article “It’s all about stomachs.” I explored the reasoning, logic, and planning around a foodservice offer that could fully deliver for guests, finding the right product, at the right price, in the right place.

This time, I am looking at people, the “human element” in our industry and the thing that most often makes the difference for all of us in the foodservice world.

We are highly dependent on people in our specific part of the industry—the commercial property sector based around retail, leisure, and foodservice.

People are the ones who deliver the product, in the buildings we plan, design, create, deliver, and manage. Despite all the talk, they are the ones that will ultimately provide the service we all crave and enjoy.

In our amazing world of foodservice, there are three groups of people that we need to consider and it is amazing how the emphasis is changing among these three distinctly separate groups.

First, there are the guests. Many of you call them customers, footfall, targets, volume, flow, or traffic. Any of the latter is simply not good enough anymore given how vital they are to you. They are coming to your property, your shop, or your restaurant with two purses or wallets—one containing their time and one containing their money.

This is the first thing you need to understand and why we call them a “guest.” They have chosen to spend time with you and have a pretty good idea of how much they want to spend. The rest is, as they say, “up to you.”

Troublesome millennials

Get it right, give them what they want, and they will spend more, more often, and reward your hard work with loyalty. They are getting harder to read, harder to satisfy, and much harder to keep coming back, but at least they are there. How we define and categorize our “guests” also makes this more complicated. The most frustrating and troublesome seem to be the millennials, or so we are led to believe. I think they have some good ideas.

Borrowing rather than buying, experiencing rather than transacting, accessing rather than owning—all these things sound pretty attractive to me as someone who grew up in a world of possessions, things, and work and social ladders.

The second group is the landlord/developer/owner. The vast majority of ACROSS’s readers fall into this category, so please choose to ignore me if you wish, but you are probably the least important in the world of foodservice. Sorry, but you are the provider, the facilitator, the petri dish in which the other two components incubate together.

You provide the environment and you are the ones that bring the “guests” to the places you build and manage, making sure they are safe, clean, well-organized, and that it matches what they want from “places for people”—or at least what you THINK they want. You also bring the tenants to the same place, hoping that the cocktail of place, people and provider (tenant) works.

The final group, then, is the tenants (providers). The attention that has been given to this group over the past decade is incredible. The time and effort to get them “into bed,” to forge relationships and to make better deals, has been immense, because they are the ones that pay the rent, sign the leases, and commit to occupying the places that have been built.

But truthfully, how much connection is there actually between these three groups? In my mind, the landlords and developers are only now embarking on the journey to understand this group properly. I know this because I am at the forefront of educating my clients on how to create meaningful, lasting, mutually satisfying relationships. I guess we could be considered the dating provider of foodservice!

Landlords need to talk providers’ language, understand their business, and communicate data and information in a way that works for them. This was, I say with hindsight, pretty easy when there were large tenant companies with “property” people, but as we get closer and closer to the “source”—the kitchen, chefs, and creators—the skills needed and the flexibility go up exponentially. Let’s not forget that these are the people the guests now want, so giving them “old” brands from 15 years ago isn’t going to cut it.

Growing number of “in-house” experts

I have been quite outspoken over the last few years about the need for our clients, the property industry, to “raise their game” in the skills and knowledge that exist in their own businesses around foodservice. Many have questioned the logic of this, in that the short-term impact on our business, foodservice consulting, would be to reduce our own work levels if more people had the skills and knowledge “in house.”

I think the industry is broad and deep enough to accommodate us all, however, and if you have a broad portfolio, with lots of F&B, then it makes perfect sense to grow, develop, and “own” your own F&B expertise. It’s a fact and has been happening all over Europe, much of it under my guidance, whether at my previous business, Coverpoint, or currently under JLL. landlords and developers want to own more of the relationships, processes, and knowledge. It is gold dust.

Where we fit in, as providers to landlords and developers, is that we bring them what they don’t know, help where they need it, and take things further, providing more guidance and working inclusively with the growing number of “in-house” experts. Personally, I am very proud. Our industry has now come of age and the skills, knowledge, and value that we all bring to the party is now clearly recognized. Well, most of the time…

“The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential… These are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.” – Confucius

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