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Morag Freathy talks to The Caterer


As seen in The Caterer. For the full article click here

Morag Freathy our managing director of Business and Industry – Compass Group UK & Ireland shares how the focus on food, sustainability and health and wellbeing has led to growth and a culture to be proud of.

How has Eurest repositioned since 2021?

When I came back to Eurest in 2017 and took on the role of managing director, we were losing sight of what our purpose was from a food standpoint. Our purpose that we're anchored on now is to make people just that little bit happier in the workplace every day.

We're also focused on the fact that food is not just about fuel. Pre-Covid, that was more the view in general about workplace feeding, but post-Covid there's a realisation that F&B gives people a reason to get together, socialise, collaborate and to attract them back into the workplace. It is a fundamental tool in a labour market where it has been very tough to attract and retain great employees.

We know from our Global Eating at Work survey [a report undertaken by Compass this year which aimed to show how employers can increase staff productivity and wellbeing] that, where there's an F&B facility in the workplace, it's seen as the number two benefit after flexible working. We've worked hard to support both our consumers and clients with changing trends post-Covid.

What have been the main achievements in the business in the past 12 months?

I have a strapline: we have a duty to nudge the nation. This means we can help people over time make the right choices for the planet and for future generations. Fifty-three per cent of our menu is plant-forward, we've reduced the meat in our meals by 40% and, just in the last year, we've taken 600,000kg of CO2 out of our emissions.

Alongside that, our food offer has come on in leaps and bounds. I love it to bits. I think it's those things that are winning us business and it's all done with integrity because we have proof points and evidence.

We're seeing 10% net growth every year and we won £23m of new business last year. The growth is also good for the team because it creates careers, which is super-important.

Tell us more about Eurest's work with nutritionists and scientists at Oxford University

At the start of the pandemic we hooked up with Oxford University around how we could nudge consumers to choose more sustainable meals. We launched the Livestock, Environment and People (LEAP) labelling project, which colour-codes dishes from A to E, where A is more sustainable and E is the least – a bit like the calorie labelling we all recognise.

We trialled this at 15 client sites that remained operational throughout the pandemic and saw success in informing consumer nudges, but also empowering our chefs to reformulate recipes with the data. We then rolled it out across our B&I portfolio in late 2021. We have now switched to Foodsteps carbon labelling, which will be used across Compass Group UK & Ireland.

What difference has it made?

It is so important to nudge people's behaviour. You can't tell consumers they can't have certain things, rather you've got to try and get them to choose the right things.

The other bit of science that comes with it is the different nudging techniques. If you work hard at making your plant-forward food look beautiful on the counters, people are drawn to it. If you put your plant-forward food at the front of the counter, it'll be the first thing customers see and they're more likely to choose it.

When you changed the food strategy, what did you do to secure buy-in from the wider Eurest team? Did it take a change of mindset from your chefs?

Our chefs and teams have been surprised at the fact that some dishes were LEAP labelled as red, so there was an education piece there. We also had meetings where we talked about carbon emissions. There is a lot of focus on aviation, but the reality is 10% of carbon emissions are created by global food waste and only 2% are created by aviation.

Sharing some of those statistics made the chefs think: "OK, I need to sort food waste and we need to move away from the red LEAP labelling." People began to feel they had a duty not to have red labels on their menus, so they started to nudge towards ambers and yellows.

What I've learned in my time is that people are motivated by different purposes, duties and benefits. Some people in our team will reduce food waste to save costs for clients and for the business, but some see it as our duty to reduce carbon emissions for the planet and for future generations, and that's a real motivator.

Morag shares how the focus on food, sustainability and health and wellbeing has led to growth and a culture to be proud of.