In this guest blog James Stephenson-Wall, part of the Future Leader programme, tells us all about his time with us and the experiences he gained.
As I look back at the last 3 months’ of the Future Leader Programme, of which I spent in the catering division, I realise how much I’ve learnt and how grateful I am for so many invaluable experiences. Throughout my rotation I have been afforded such a hands on experience, that I’ve had no option but to learn quickly and really get stuck in.
The teams I’ve met along the way have such unrivalled passion for what they do, and it was so infectious, that I completely bought into the Food Co ethos. The team spirit and camaraderie made my transition from the Security division a seamless one, I felt right at home from the off.
The first half of my rotation was based at a site in Felixstowe, with a rather industrial feel, I was initially struck by the speed of breakfast service. The customers absolutely love their breakfasts, and the team serve them up at a rate of knots. The breakfast service is a time when you can definitely feel the heat of the kitchen, but it was such a buzz getting a good service out, with a great sense of accomplishment when the last breakfast of the day was served. From that point forward, I had exposure to all the tasks that arise within a busy kitchen; from food preparation, serving and working the EPOS system to the banking, bookwork, health & safety, stock control and wages.
I was afforded real responsibility during my rotation and none more so than when I organised a theme day on site, which was a real highlight. The American Themed Day went really well with Chilli Dogs, BBQ Pulled Pork, Spicy Wedges and Chilli & Cheese Corn Bread just a few of the delicious items on offer. I planned, priced up, advertised, prepped, cooked and served on the day itself. The customers enjoyed the food, the takings were positive and it was a great to put my learnings into practice.
A special mention has to go to the Peanut Butter & Jelly Brownies, which were a fantastic idea from Darren, the Head Chef at Felixstowe. They were suitably devoured by the customers and catering team alike.
Leaving Felixstowe behind, I spent the 2nd half of my catering rotation at a large office complex in Cambridge. Although the basic set of principles I had picked up in Felixstowe were applicable, the site had its own unique set of challenges. With only a limited breakfast offering, the focus was on the lunch service, wherein 600 people are served each and every day. It really took some getting used to; serving 600 people in less than 2 hours was such an adrenaline rush. The team there do such an incredible job, making the very difficult look very easy. Serving that volume of people, every day, puts a massive strain on the facilities and the team, but everyone is so well drilled and there’s such a great team spirit, that service is always out on time and to a very high standard.
During my time at Cambridge I delivered training to each member of the team on aspects such as COSHH, fire & electrical safety and basic food hygiene. I completed several team briefings detailing the day’s service, the previous day’s performance, areas for the team to focus on and allergens. A key area of learning throughout my time in catering has been understanding the commercial approach that the catering units take. I’m now appreciative of the key decisions and processes in place as well as the marketing and promotions that all serve to drive profitability.
On top of the time on site, I had the opportunity to visit a couple of our key suppliers and build an awareness of the catering supply chain. I also attended a fantastic barista training day put on by our coffee partner; who knew there were so many variables to control when making a cup of coffee? The day was truly insightful, brought to light when I witnessed the launch of our new coffee brand Groundhouse. Judging by the taste and early feedback, I’m sure the Groundhouse offering will be a massive success.
A massive ‘thank you’ to both Nicky and Sandra, the two Catering Managers who were pivotal in providing me with such a fantastic experience over the past 3 months. It has been a privilege to work in such a passionate division of the Servest business and I will take the skills and confidence gained with me on the remainder of my Future Leader journey.