Service Quality of UK Catering Industry
Quality and maintenance of catering services has become the subject of various researches and surveys during the last several decades. It means that a philosophy of qualified services was settled as an important theme for discussions and improvements across the catering industry. It is quite natural that increased attention to food and drinks sphere has boosted sales and development of catering industry in the UK. Today, catering industry struggles with two main problems. They include the qualified staff shortage and economy downturn.
It’s a pity, but economy status has inserted pitfalls and corrections in caterers’ business plans for the year 2009th. Making a certain stress on economy conditions, there is a necessity to have a word about an equal power shaping businesses today. It is a public opinion. Customers’ satisfaction on services delivered is definitely important for successful business development, especially in catering sphere. Level of services provided, along with the average quality and safety of products used in the processes makes people thinking before attending any restaurant or cafe, or pub.
Shortly after Food Safety Act implementation issued by British Government in the year 2006th caterers have improved the quality of services provided for schools and nursery establishments, that’s why the level of customers’ satisfaction with catering services has started to increase proportionally to improvements implemented by service providers. Current research is aimed with summarizing customers’ expectations from UK catering industry and the actual status of business development in the sphere via analysis weak points and strengths noticed in various literature sources during different time periods.
One of the key goals settled for present work envisage the list of recommendations for improvements development along with specification of regulative mechanisms to be used for gaining the appropriate status and efficiency in terms of customers’ expectations and business values. The UK catering market is a substantial market share that has the intention to grow despite the forecasts and nowadays economy conditions. Looking back to the year 2004th we can find out that UK foodservice management and catering was estimated in GBR 3,9 bn, which is on 20% bigger in comparison with the year 2000th .
There are five main sectors the catering market has been divided on. They are business and industry, education, catering for public, healthcare establishments and other legal service providers, which are contracted for servicing governmental institutions on various ranges, including prisons and oil rigs, etc. Business and industry makes the biggest share in catering market, however the public sector remains the fastest growing market share. New marketing ideas development along with customers’ demand growing has reasoned fast and efficient catering business development in the period of time from 2000th till 2004th.
During the last five years catering business has succeed to deliver quality services in education sector, however the lack of qualified staff and Food Safety Act issued in the year 2006th has built the certain frame for business development in the educational sector. Despite the economy downturn there is an opinion that catering business will continue to develop due to organizations’ desire to outsource non key business, the opportunity to provide additional services along with catering and an accent on educational catering made by publicity and Government during the last five years.
Catering market analysis made in 2008th shows the significant growth of retail selling prices, the average increase is underestimated as 4,3 % yearly. The research has covered restaurants, fast foods and takeaways, including contract catering and foodservice management, licensed clubs, hospitals, public houses and holidays houses of various ranges. Public houses have demonstrated the most substantial growth during the year 2007th, however all the markets mentioned above showed average continuous growing during this period of time.
The forecast made for the UK catering market for the period from 2008th till 2012th shows that lower customers’ spending will affect certain sectors of catering industry; however the overall catering business will constantly grow thru this particular period of time. One of important factors for the UK catering development is tourism. This factor will boost the sales and stimulate the industry.
The refurbishment and services improvement implemented by the leading operators in the sphere in a great combination with qualified and healthy food will stimulate sales for the long term despite the lost caused by smoking ban, affected certain industry sector. Smoking free and healthy eating atmosphere is a great benefit valued by customers and achieved by service providers nowadays. Taking into consideration the great deal catering service plays in formatting healthy eating habits among younger children, there is a necessity to underline the importance of catering services quality provided for the youngest customers’ audience.
Qualified catering services for schools should include fresh food ingredients taken from local providers preferably, less usage of carbohydrate and various fat, also an overall quality of preparation procedure should be kept in accordance with norms and regulations issued by British Government for catering industry exclusively. Nowadays very small amount of caterers think about additional services to be provided for families visiting catering establishments with young children. Very often the atmosphere and menu does not satisfy this range of customers’ expectations. Far more attention could be paid for people with special needs.
Sometimes the caterers do not envisage any special facilities for such category of their customers. Small and medium business owners cannot afford to split the area on smoking and non smoking, however smoking ban has affected tobacco dependant business development including various dining chains, pubs, cafes and restaurants. Smoking restriction carries negative and positive impact on catering business at the same time. Refreshed air, free of smoking atmosphere attracted new range of customers to pubs, which are looking rather for pleasant family environment with good healthy food and pleasant time to spend.
New wave of pubs’ clients made a good substitution for the business part bounded to cigarettes selling. Even cut off in families’ budgets and development of eating at home habit can be overcome with correct strategy used and customers caring attitude to business. In the terms of decorations and equipment used by some caterers would like to make some negative comments. They certainly need to be improved. At the condition of alcohol (beer) and cigarettes sales falling down, particular across licensed clubs and restaurants the immediate improvements and services verification are badly needed.
Nowadays, when a wide range of caterers thru healthy eating oriented services have afforded not a surviving only but winning the mature customers audience , that guaranteed business development and sales growth; the establishments, such as bingo clubs oriented on smokers and public houses catering mostly for drinkers, should review their services for certain improvements. The most obvious changes are to be implemented in menu verification and outside smoking and drinking places creating. Menu development and investments made in upgrading and pubs reconstruction initially is to be aimed with market stimulating.
Many factors influencing the UK catering industry are developed in popular publically available articles and books, published as by printing houses as online. The opportunity to build personal opinion on services across the industry, its pitfalls, issues and strengths is affordable by massive amount of readers. This factor positions the public opinion as a powerful tool and customers’ attitude as an influent regulative mechanism for caterers. Customers- readers’ attention is drawn not to the quality of services and food only, but also to financial mechanisms used for financial funds regulations in the sphere.
Dennis Harrington started his research on catering finance formatting in the beginning of 1996th showing the importance of this question for catering services attractiveness and their availability for many years ahead. His research work was based on survey taken by customers of several the most popular hotels in London area. The aim was to draw public attention to the relationship between quality of services and overall business performance including companies, organizations performance in financial business sphere and competition between service providers (Harrington, 1996).
Financial components along with the quality of services’ performance are the primary measures for catering business maintenance at current economic conditions. Quality of food used in catering industry and its impact on health and dangerous diseases development remains the crucially important factor for service provider or catering establishment choosing by potential customers. Nowadays, when almost the major part of chemical supplements added to food for taste improvement or coloring appear the most dangerous products for numerous diseases enhancement.
At the condition of eating food rich for chemicals or junk food there is a growing risk of cancer development, heart attacks or various blood infections. One of the brightest examples is associated with Salmonella infection that made catering businesses in England and Wales to take the strong measures on supply preparations and food serving in order to avoid risk of Salmonella infection, which is spread thru eggs produced without quality improved assured scheme and technologies.
The group of medical professionals describes operational practices used in catering industry in order to prevent Salmonella infection and other dangerous infections, which can be verified via under qualified food in PubMed journal under the title “Operational practices associated with foodborne outbreaks in the catering industry in England and Wales” (Jones, Parry, O’Brien, Palmer, 2008). Hands hygiene practice is the subject of social cognitive theory’s study. Its place in growing popularity of catering services across the UK is definitely substantial and important.
Deborah Clayton and Christopher Griffith from Cardiff University in Wales have stressed on practical efficiency of changing organizational processes along with food safety culture as a good additional help for individuals being aware about hand hygiene importance (Clayton, Griffith, 2008). Professor Bridget Hutter and Dr. Tola Amodu have issued a valuable research performed on “Risk Regulation and Compliance: Food Safety in UK”, dated by September, 2008th. This research was aimed with investigation of existing mechanism in the UK food hygiene regulation and compliance – reinforcement issues.
The authors stress that food and safety laws are determined to protect customers from having food with unsatisfactory quality measures that might be dangerous for human health. Risk Regulation and Compliance research claims that the key regulation and business management in food industry is performed by the state, however there is a lack of evidences on the fact that customers’ role in catering industry is equal to the role belonging to state (Hutter, Amodu, 2008).
Understanding of real customers-government regulating mechanism is able to bring certain corrections into retailers’ operating in catering sphere and catering educators’ plans (Fairman& Yapp, 2004). There is indirect impact on catering and overall food processing sphere from private consultancy firms and various trade associations which impact grows proportionally to the size of business they operate with.
Media, insurance, lawyers and other background influent groups playing rather negligible role may affect negatively on business efficiency in the situations, where consumers cannot play such significant role as in the stimulation of qualified services delivery (Mohtadi, 2005). Food retail and hospitality sectors consist of number of medium and small sized businesses thus they operate with law legal regulatory capacity. So, there is a risk related to regulations ignorance causing the remedy problems.
The key issue in regulation basis of such businesses is concluded in ability to manage financial resources and knowledge / expertise resources, thus they are limited in capacity of self regulation. Although the risk regulation principals play a significant role in catering business management, there are the other components, which are able to influence as public opinion as managers’ decisions. Contemporary caterers should be aware about waste minimization and polluting reduction, as food and drink processing industry is one of the most severe polluters.
Stefan Henningsson, Katherine Hyde, Ann Smith and Miranda Campbell have accomplished the solid research on value of resource efficiency of food industry. It is also known as waste minimization project in East Anglia, UK. Thirteen catering companies participated in the project, which was invested with ? 412,000 plus the ? 335,000 invested by companies in cleaning technologies. A thousand and four hundred tons of solid waste, six hundred seventy tons of CO2 emissions and seventy thousands m 3 of polluted water were reduced by thirteen project’s companies-participants yearly.
I completely agree that changing technology used for packaging and waste recycling will involve additional costs thus economically this point looks not that attractive for service providers, but working for future perspectives, we can assume that mature customers will prefer pollution free catering with minimum rage of waste production. I believe that this attitude to food industry and its relation with environment protection plays an important role for building rating of the most popular catering enterprises across the UK.
Apart from moral principles and environment protection electricity and water reduction will make the substantial savings for caring companies in catering industry. Also modern technologies in waste reduction area will involve significant saving of manpower, materials and utilities. All these factors should impact the cost of catering services in a good way that is really important at present economy conditions (Henningsson, Hyde, Smith, Campbell, 20003). Catering sphere as many other constantly growing service providing spheres across the UK suffers from the lack of qualified staff.
Many workers from Eastern European countries moved to British Isles with hope to become employed in catering industry. This factor played a good deal in HR market staffing, however the lack of educated professionals with the hand on level of services demanded by contemporary customer are still missing. At the time of economy downturn, I would like to stress the importance of education for quality services providing. Actually quite similar opinion is expressed by Tom Baum in his article, “Unskilled work and the hospitality industry: myth or reality”, issued early in the 1996th and approved today.
Catering service providers should work out the unique standard controlling system, which is to be accepted at all business levels including small and medium enterprises for healthy eating promotion and quality services delivery at all levels. Special attention is to be paid on educational sphere and efficient collaboration between learning institutions’ boards and caterers. Healthier lifestyle for British citizens should become an etalon developed and promoted together with Food Standard Agency and Health Promotion Agency.
The youngest children servicing should be improved across all catering establishments across the UK. The ideal implementation envisages providing free milk/ fruit treatment for the youngest customers in addition to the main course ordered by mature customers. Free course meals is to be implemented in all catering establishments in order to get the attending audience verified thru decent services oriented on healthy eating habits, delivery. I would like to recommend smart cards implementations across all the catering enterprises despite their size and specification.
Smart cards will provide a valuable information on number of orders made by particular customer, his/her preferences in eating style, and the size of discount made by catering service for this particular customer. It goes without saying, that smart cards play extra important role for security services. Taking into consideration a certain proportions, which should bring the catering service at the similar level in financial and moral aspects as any other services are decently evaluated in accordance with business outcomes and personal benefits gained by employees.
Despite the problems we have within current economy situation the better attention is ought to be paid on people with special needs. Catering service can become a sort of delight in their everyday life, which is certainly not rich for events and celebrations. Waste management improvement supported by local authorities will enhance utilization processes and reduce spending on packaging utilization along with other used resources utilization. Marketing strategy used nowadays for catering services promotion should be upgraded due to time and conditions’ demands.
It should be more focused on commercial and income generation activities in order to develop business more time efficiently placing the delivered conveniences and benefits in public and business minds. Healthy lifestyle, low cost qualified meals and additional services providing is to become a message for caterers of every specification today. Decorations of dining rooms should become more attractive, even thematic in order to bring the desired atmosphere of calm happiness and secure relax for customers. Additional funds spent on decor, lights, air conditioning and live music will be benefited with doubled number of customers.
Stressing on decorations and atmosphere creation, I would like to add a couple of words on equipment used in by caterers. The containers, used for pre cooked stuff should be substituted by more attractive options that will bring more convenience even in the atmosphere of school canteens. Staff management improvement should include the benefits of extra hours paid as a basic bonus system. Special education and trainings should become a habit even among middle and small sized catering businesses. Stuff should carry out more responsibilities related as to quality of services as to quality of food.
Attendance Management Policies should be developed and used strictly in every catering organization; these regulative norms are to become a part of corporate initiative. Training and Development Policy should be established in accordance with frequent requirements and standard specialized for catering establishment of particular type and size. Management attention is to be paid to every employee, so trainings opportunity is to be provided to all the staff. Professional trainings are to be oriented on development friendly attitude towards customers and caring servicing those who have disabilities.
At least one of the staff members should be trained for first aid practical skills for emergency case. The others should be briefly introduced to this training in order to be able to help whenever the emergency situation will happen. For trainings and coaching maintenance special cards are to be implemented. They should keep the information about quantity of trainings provided to particular employee and his/ her average success level along with special notes that might be helpful in business. Every time trainings requirements should be discussed and proved by Supervisory Assistance office.
Also, meetings with Food Standard agency Board and local Environmental Health Officers should be arranged every year, in order to bring assurance that management approach chosen goes along with overall strategy across the industry. Safety and working condition of equipment used in catering enterprises should be checked in accordance with norms and regulations issued for catering equipment’s usage case. Electrical and mechanical engineers should prepare a report on equipment’s age, condition and potential supplier of every equipment part.
Regular meetings with key equipment manufacturers and local resources suppliers’ providers will be helpful for creating a database of potential services and resources, available on request. Consultation strategy should be developed in order to unite and update with information about the most recent standards and improvements all the external and internal stakeholders. Development of consultation strategy envisages implementation of key performance indicators for evaluating performance across built processes.
Advanced communication practice shared across the catering organization including teams meetings, newsletters and notice boards will prepare a good ground for motivation seeds required for fast business growing. References: 1. Harrington, D. (1996). Service quality and business performance in the UK hotel industry Business School, Waterford Regional Technical College, Ireland, Published by Elsevier Science Ltd. 2. Jones SL, Parry SM, O’Brien SJ, Palmer SR. (2008).
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