The Badger: Goodbye!

After 10 years and 120 articles, The Badger says goodbye – and reveals his top secret identity…

After 10 years and 120 articles, The Badger says goodbye – and reveals his top secret identity…

This issue is a special one for me. It marks my 120th Badger article for this magazine, which of course means it’s the tenth anniversary of B&I Catering magazine (even though it started off being called FSM). It also seems like a sensible time to call it a day for Badger in its current form – i.e. with me writing it.

The decade has flown by in many respects and so much has happened in the world. We went from Gordon Brown to David Cameron to Theresa May to Boris Johnson as PM. We saw the horrors of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. London hosted the amazingly successful 2012 Olympics. The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee was celebrated in style and she also became our longest ever serving monarch. We voted for Brexit and the Americans voted in Trump. William and Kate and Harry and Meghan got married, and we saw the first gay marriages happen across the country, and lots more besides.

I’ve been looking through my ‘back catalogue’ of articles over the past 10 years and I’ve covered an awful lot of topics – and only a few of them more than once! I think Brexit got the most mentions and by the time this goes to print, we will be out of the European Union. In my opinion, a very sad day, but there’s no real mystery about what my opinion has been on that matter either! Other topics covered more than once included consultants; pricing; consumer expectations and how realistic they are; client expectations and tendering processes; CSR and sustainability; and people and talent.

It’s interesting to reflect on the changes in our industry too. Steet food went from niche to mainstream and the taste-buds of the consumer have been stretched big-time. Chefs have become social media stars collecting huge followings, but probably one of the biggest changes in foodservice of the past decade has been industry consolidation, as we’ve seen numerous smaller contract caterers absorbed, often by much bigger companies. That said, small companies have also been making a huge impact. In 2010, Host was a company with sales of £15m led by Bill Toner. Through a series of mergers and acquisitions we now have CH&CO, a £500m turnover group, and the fourth largest contract caterer in the UK. So that just goes to show that pretty small companies can also become very large, successful businesses by challenging the ‘normal’ growth strategies adopted by foodservice businesses.

We’ve seen more red tape and regulations introduced with the constant threat of more on the horizon, but we’ve waded our way through it. Sustainability has become front page news and we now all need to radically review how we do things going forward. Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion are not going away and we need to make big decisions about how we work going forward. I still feel that there is scope for a lot more industry collaboration in this area, but I’m not holding my breath that it will happen any time soon.

The industry has certainly become ultra-competitive over the past decade and we’re having to come up with increasingly innovative ways to get the customer to spend more, and more often! But we also have a long track record of rising to whatever challenge the economy or society throws at us and long may that continue.

I started writing these articles in 2010 with some trepidation – did I know enough? Would I get my facts right? Would people agree with me or think I’m writing rubbish? The vast majority of the articles of the past decade have been my ideas and opinions and I’m pleased to say that judging by the feedback Badger has received, they appear to have struck a chord with many of you. There are also a very small number of people who knew I was Badger and I’d like to thank them for the ideas they have given me or their opinions that needed a discrete voice (you know who you are!).

So, who am I? My name is Andrew Merrett and it’s been a real pleasure writing for you. Here’s to the new decade, and the new feature that will replace Badger.