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Lessons from China - Ian Cranna Blog

By Ian Cranna, Future Food Offer and New Channels Director, Compass Group UK & Ireland

As a global organisation we have the privileged benefit of sharing best practice and learnings with colleagues across the world. The consumer insights from countries ahead of us in the coronavirus curve are invaluable to help us understand and predict consumer habits and develop a sustainable foodservice offer.

We appreciate there will always be cultural differences, but largely the responses of each nation to identify the best way to keep people safe has been replicated across the globe. I have recently had the opportunity to speak to our colleagues in Compass Group China as they release restrictions, which will help pave a way for our return to work in the UK.

Consumer behaviour post lockdown

Our research in China tells us there is an understandable nervousness about returning to day-to-day life, some consumers are excited to be able to leave their homes, meet up again in groups, create celebratory events and try to get back to “normal”. Many are continuing to exercise caution, stay local, avoid crowds and eat alone.

While there hasn’t been an instant return to “business as usual”, there is a slow incremental day-by-day build of a return to business as people adjust. 

The Chinese Government released restrictions gradually, relying heavily on technology as its route out of the crisis. We are now seeing restrictions slowing being lifted across Europe and expect to see something similar in the UK.

In China restaurants initially provided “Click and Collect” options, then opened for take-away collections with customers being able to pay instore, then moved to limited covers before returning to restaurants opening fully.

Even with the restrictions being lifted and restaurants opening, “Click and Collect” services continue to have a high demand. It’s too early to predict whether this will reflect a longer-term change to consumer habits, but we do believe that this trend is likely to continue for some time to come.

Health and Wellness checks have become common place, everyone entering a workplace, food outlet/or coffee shop has their temperature taken, hand sanitiser and masks are available at the entrance, and everyone has a ‘Health App’ that needs to be shown with a ‘green’ status to be allowed in. The ‘Health App’ is compulsory and contains that person’s testing history (Red = requires you to quarantine, Green = Healthy).

These measures all reflect a significant change to people’s everyday lives, which require businesses to adapt to.

What will the UK do?

It’s hard to know what measures the UK will introduce. The monitoring of people’s health and of course the requirement to keep people safe will be paramount. We expect social distancing to continue for some time, driven either by Government advice or consumer behaviour. Alongside this additional surface cleaning, the use of sanitiser and hand washing, plus screens and other measures will become familiar sights.

We have started to look at what this will mean for our foodservice operations and are developing a number of different models, so we are able to quickly implement new learnings at sites where we are currently operating and update those sites where we need to remobilise.

New processes are likely to be wide ranging from:

  • Protecting employee and customer health – daily self-declaration of health and wellness on reporting for work
  • Enhanced cleaning and sanitisation processes – easy access to sanitiser with the creation of santisation stations
  • Introduction of sneeze screens
  • Reviewing food production and serving teams to wear gloves and potentially face masks or visors
  • Social distancing – looking at how layouts are changed to accommodate 2m distancing
  • Introduce pre-ordered and pre-portioned take away service models

We recognise that these will be significant changes not only for our customers but employees too. Therefore, we will be providing further practical and emotional support for our people, as we know that having successful teams leads to successful service. Our people will always remain at the heart of our business.

All of these proposals are being kept under constant review and will evolve and adapt as we learn more and listen to Government recommendations, what our clients and consumers want, and importantly successes from our businesses across the world.

We know that it’s essential for consumers to feel safe and comfortable in their working and recreational environments and we need to ensure we get the balance right, focusing on providing a nutritious meal along with their desire to stay safe.

We have started to roll out our return to work programme, to ensure we can be as ready as possible to confidently deliver a safe foodservice offer to our consumers and clients. Even though much has changed we will continue to do what we always have done; provide well-balanced, tasty food in a welcoming and safe environment.

Ian Cranna, Future Food Offer and New Channels Director, Compass Group UK & Ireland