Foodservice forum: 2021

How was 2021 for your business?

Dean Kennett
Managing director, Fooditude

From a personal perspective, I entered 2021 not with hope but, to be honest, totally depressed and deflated. The lockdown over Christmas was hard, restricted me and meant that, like many others, I didn’t get to see my family or do what I’d normally do at that time of year. 

New year should bring hope, but I was in a dark place. It didn’t help when I got constant photo reminders on my phone that showed pictures of a distant time and place, that resembled a good movie you wish you were in, but never got the part.

When re-entering work and, as brand holder, MD and founder, you must find the clown face for the sake of your team and the few clients you have left – to show you are ready, poised and game hungry to get back to work. You leave behind your own personal thoughts, doubts and, without realising it, use your day job to support and crutch any inabilities you may be feeling personally. 

I can’t speak for others in the business and industry catering world, but if there was ever a sector that was left out and to fend it on their own, it was ours. Yes, we might work in a corporate world, with large sums of money being landed on deals, but at the heart of it all are people trying to steer through the curveballs being sent at them, and at speed. One wrong move, one bad decision could mean the endgame for many. 

But it’s not all bad. Small openings show up, new challenges bring results and suddenly you start to see a way out. Holding tight to the table and not losing sight that you are there in the first place is the golden rule of staying in business. ‘Never, never, never, never, give up’ by Winston Churchill, ringing in my ears. 

The door of optimism opened for me when we started the task of mobilising Fooditude in Ireland. A new venture, something different and what awaits?

Our team stepped off the flight into the Dublin sunshine and it felt for a short time like we had flown away from what was and entered an almost holiday experience. Don’t get me wrong, two hard weeks of graft lay ahead, but we quite quickly got to start looking ahead and understanding something new and fresh. 

We rode bikes on the weekend, had a few pints of the black stuff and got to know new team members and the wider business community in Ireland. It will remain, for me, a most treasured time. When we arrived back, I suddenly looked at what we had just left behind and started applying this energy to my London team. Shook the blankets type of thing and remade the bed.

Months have skipped past and we are now looking up at the Everest of work that awaits us. Having had time through what has been a strange year to change, adapt and rationalise all that went before when we were just too busy to do anything about our errors.

So now, as a team, we feel more confident, at ease with what we know and can do and – dare I say it – be the best at it. There’s a lot to do in 2022!

Sean Haley,
Chairman, Sodexo UK and Ireland

Sodexo UK and Ireland has had a strong year and some significant successes, despite trading still below pre-pandemic levels. We have seen a steady flow of contract wins, particularly in areas hit hardest by lockdown, such as schools and our sports and leisure business, Sodexo Live! We won prestigious new business with Oundle School and extended our contract in the newly-refurbished Hampden Park, the home of Scottish football.

We were genuinely delighted this summer to help the government with test events and opening back up the experiences that we know people love – Royal Ascot, Henley Royal Regatta and the Chelsea Flower Show. We were also proud to continue supporting the government’s ongoing response to Covid-19 and are now the largest provider of test centres in the UK. We also operate the only network of assisted testers in England and Scotland, providing tests for those who have mobility and disability issues, and at events such as the G7 and COP26.

Our financial results are one indicator of our businesses’ health, but our social impact is just as significant. And we’ve made great progress on our social impact pledges.

What stands out for me is how we have reduced food waste significantly using WasteWatch powered by Leanpath. This programme is now at 229 client sites and has prevented over 280 tonnes of food waste – more than 500,000 meals. Sodexo UK and Ireland has also set an ambitious and comprehensive roadmap to net zero by 2045. We’ve committed to being carbon neutral in our direct operations by 2025 and to reduce carbon emissions by 55% by 2030 across all three scopes, which has been validated by the Science Based Target initiative (SBTi).

However, our approach is about using our scale and position to make business decisions that help not only our people, but the communities in which we operate. We’ve now gifted more than £1m of our apprenticeship levy and are one of the first companies to capture and analyse employee demographics as recommended by the Social Mobility Commission and Purpose Coalition. This year, we became the first hospitality and facilities management company to publish ethnicity pay gap data.

All this is thanks to the hard work, commitment and professionalism of our people, and the support of our valued clients, suppliers and partners. We know it has been a challenging time for them too. We start our new financial year focused on how we will continue to adapt and grow our business while ensuring we are leading the way to improve quality of life for society and our planet. Everyone at Sodexo is committed to this journey.

You may also be interested in…