Members’ News

December 2023

Sodexo encourages Scottish energy businesses to close skills gap through ex-offenders employment #

Sodexo’s Energy & Resources division is bringing together leading organisations and partners within the energy supply chain to find solutions that will help bridge the current skills gap, with a particular focus on the training and recruitment of ex-offenders and marginalised individuals.
On 15th November, Sodexo hosted its Purpose-led business roundtable at its Aberdeen offices with Sodexo Energy & Resources senior leaders and HMP Addiewell personnel, along with Sean Haley, CEO Sodexo UK&I, and businesses within the energy industry.
Recent research from PwC Green Jobs Barometer has identified that the energy sector is facing a significant skills shortage that will continue in the years to come across nuclear, hydrogen and renewables – as the UK is also on a path to fully deliver on net zero targets while providing energy security.
Discussing best practices and how collaboration can help overcome some of the recruitment challenges in the sector, the event highlighted initiatives and the ongoing work with local businesses to boost ex-offenders’ and marginalised individuals’ employability skills.                        
A survey commissioned earlier this year by Sodexo revealed that 62% of UK businesses in the private sector partaking in the research were struggling to recruit. Considering ex-offenders to bridge the skills gap could therefore partially solve this challenge, while providing them with the right opportunities that will help them to positively transition back into the community and reduce the risk of re-offending.
The roundtable also explored how collaboration can support other marginalised groups such as the homeless, and Sodexo’s partnership with charity Change Please. Some of the initiatives have included barista training to over 50 people experiencing homelessness, as well as delivering a carbon-neutral coffee offer.  
Sodexo shared additional ways Scottish businesses can get involved:
Future Skills Programme, working with employers and training providers to create and deliver training programmes to prisoner leavers approaching release. Businesses involved in the process are required to provide a minimum of a guaranteed interview or job commitment to those who managed to complete the full course.

HMP Academies offer dedicated learning environments in prisons where employers train prisoners for employment on release. HMP Addiewell, for example, offers up to 40 hours per week to support prisoners’ growth through a purposeful activity. The employability team at the prison has also partnered with the Construction Industry Training Board to run regular Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) courses. This is the operative test taken by most construction workers, including bricklayers, labourers, and carpenters.

New Futures Network, managed through prison services, aims at fostering partnerships between prisons and employers. 

Ed Morrow, Managing Director of Energy and Resources, Sodexo UK & Ireland said: “As a purpose-led organisation, collaboration is necessary to drive positive change forward. The challenges the industry is currently facing must be addressed rapidly in order to best support the UK’s efforts to decarbonisation.
 “Bringing partners and local businesses today has been a fantastic experience to discuss how employing ex-offenders and prison leavers can ultimately support some of those challenges. We’re aware that more work can be done in this space, and we’ll continue to start conversations with local businesses about the positive impact of our Starting Fresh initiatives.” 
Sodexo has been encouraging businesses to proactively consider skilled and qualified ex-offenders through its Starting Fresh programme, which launched in March 2023. As part of its Social Impact Pledge, Sodexo has committed to fulfilling all appropriate positions with 5% of ex-offenders.
Sodexo’s Energy & Resources business aims at providing quality services that support the wellbeing and answer to the evolving needs of employees working in often isolated and complex environments.
Delivering services that range from catering, hospitality, welfare, facilities management, property management and refurbishments, Sodexo works with various environments, from corporate offices to offshore, remote, and industrial sites.

Bidfood appoints new Business Development Controller for Hotels and Restaurants #

Bidfood, one of the UK’s leading foodservice providers, has recently revealed the appointment of Vicki Philpott as Business Development Controller for Hotels and Restaurants. Vicki will be responsible for leading the national sales teams in representing and further strengthening the businesses support within these important sectors.

Vicki brings with her a wealth of experience, particularly from a supplier perspective. Having begun her career with Diageo almost 25 years ago, since then, Vicki has also undertaken roles within notable companies such as Molson-Coors, Twinings, Mars and most recently, Hain Celestial.

As well as bringing with her an excellent understanding of the industry, Vicki is a strong advocate of diversity and inclusion, championing industry networking programmes such as Women in Wholesale which recently rebranded as Diversity in Wholesale.

Talking about her new role, Vicki commented: “The last few years have been challenging for hotels and restaurants, however I’m optimistic that as we approach 2024 the sector will continue to flourish and bring with it a number of opportunities. 

“My passion for the foodservice industry has always been at the forefront of the work I do and I’m extremely excited to have joined Bidfood. This role will allow me to put my existing relationships and knowledge to good use, whilst working with the team to continue the outstanding work they do to deliver service excellence and help our customers grow.”

HB Clark & Co Ltd acquires Wilds of Oldham #

Unitas Wholesaler member, HB Clark & Co Ltd, part of Kitwave Group plc, has acquired a fellow Unitas on trade member, Wilds of Oldham.
John Kinney, MD at Unitas Wholesale, said: “HB Clark is an excellent on trade business and has ambitious plans for the future with this acquisition of Wilds of Oldham, a great family business. HB Clark will expand their business further with a ninth depot and valuable access to service their customer base in and around the North West.
“Wilds of Oldham is a proven and successful business in the on trade sector, backed by more than two decades of brand heritage and family work ethic. Both Andrew, ex-Unitas board member, and Annie Wild have been the driving force of continued growth within their business. This acquisition by HB Clark is another example of a Unitas member investing to accelerate growth, and we are excited to see how HB Clark’s business will continue to develop.”

Andrew Wild commented: “After many successful years of business, we are thrilled to have secured this acquisition. We couldn’t be happier that the family business will be transferring to HB Clark, a thriving fellow Unitas member.”
Jay Mackay, MD at HB Clark & Co, added: “We are delighted to announce the acquisition of Wilds of Oldham, which will assist in the distribution of HB Clark's alcohol and soft drinks products throughout the North West. Wilds of Oldham will make a strong addition to our on-trade division. At Kitwave, we remain focussed on capitalising on the fragmented UK wholesale market and will continue to identify the best opportunities to deliver the most value for our stakeholders.
“We are looking forward to working closely with the Wilds of Oldham team and integrating the business into the group.”

Chef Sean Hunter wins Aramark Ireland’s Chef of the Year 2024 #

Executive Chef Sean Hunter, of the Guinness Storehouse, has been announced Aramark Ireland’s Chef of the Year 2024. The annual competition, which showcases the exceptional talent of chefs across Aramark Ireland, saw nine culinary experts compete for the prestigious prize through a series of cooking challenges.
The final took place at the Technological University of Dublin’s (TUD) Tallaght campus on Thursday, 16 November. The competing chefs demonstrated an incredibly high standard of culinary skill, and their delicious meals were assessed by three expert judges.
Participants faced the challenge of creating a vegan starter and a main course featuring wild Irish game. The chefs were encouraged to demonstrate a wide range of skills within the allotted time, showcasing their unique interpretations of taste and flavour. All dishes were judged by an expert panel, which featured TUD lecturer, Denise Murray, Redmond Fine Foods owner and director, Rocky Redmond, and Derek Reilly, Executive Director of Culinary at Aramark Ireland and Avoca.
Executive Chef Sean Hunter was declared the winner of the competition following his presentation of an impressive two-course meal to the judging panel. The starter consisted of a stunning organic beetroot ‘Tartare’ sourced from Iona Fruit Farm, served with a golden beetroot gel ‘yolk’, a beetroot liquid veil, beetroot crisp and smoked almonds. For his main course, Chef Sean presented a delicious curried Wicklow sika deer, complemented by Bombay potato tuile aubergine puree, a date chutney cone, and a Predator Zinfandel jus.
The competition’s runner-up was Jake Gamboa, Hospitality Chef de Partie at AIB Molesworth Street. Chef Jake served a mouth-watering ‘Adobo’ glazed tender-stem broccoli with broccoli puree, pickled shallot and a roasted hazelnut dressing. Chef Jake prepared a main course of venison with butternut squash moons, cavolo nero, pumpkin seed and pecan nut granola, plum and espresso jus and coffee butter.
The winner and runner-up have qualified to represent Aramark Ireland at the Aramark International Chefs Cup in Canada. The grand final is due to take place in June 2024; this competition is open to chefs who are currently employed by Aramark Corporate Catering services, who are the organisers of the competition.  
Following the competition, Derek Reilley, Executive Director of Culinary Aramark Ireland & Avoca, said: “Aramark Ireland takes great pride in its exceptionally talented chefs, and this competition superbly showcases our remarkable in-house expertise. Participating in the Aramark Ireland Chef of the Year event is a true honor, and I am thoroughly impressed by the culinary excellence demonstrated by our chefs. At Aramark, we have always valued the skills and talents of our staff, and I extend my gratitude to all the participants for sharing their culinary artistry. Wishing the best of luck to Sean and Jake in the next stage of the competition”

Winner of Aramark Ireland Chef of the Year, Sean Hunter said: “I am delighted to receive this award and be given the opportunity to represent Ireland at the Aramark International Chefs Cup. This competition is an excellent opportunity to celebrate the range of skills and an incredible example of the produce and culinary culture of Ireland. I am proud to be a part of this.”

I would like to thank the team at Aramark Ireland for coordinating this event and congratulate the other participants who created amazing dishes.”


Sodexo Live!’s regenerative farm is helping to feed Brighton & Hove Albion fans more sustainably #

With the new Premier League season well underway, Brighton & Hove Albion fans are being fed a lot more sustainably, as food waste from the American Express Stadium has started to be sent to a regenerative farm in West Sussex that the club’s venue partner, Sodexo Live! works with. The food waste is then used to help grow future crops and produce that are sent back and used in the club’s kitchens.

Sodexo Live! has had 1.5 acres of exclusive farmland at Full Circle Farms, in West Hoathly, for several years, which uses fully regenerative methods to grow crops and produce. Since working with the farm more than three tonnes of organic vegetables, the equivalent weight to more than 7,600 Premier League footballs, has been used across venues and events where Sodexo Live! operates.

Since August food waste from the American Express Stadium has joined this process and in turn is helping to feed the thousands of fans and guests that visit each week more sustainably.

Once received the food waste is composted on-site, in Full Circle Farm’s mobile composting systems, and once the compost has been at a temperature of 75 to 80 degrees for a minimum of two weeks, the machines are then emptied, and the compost is delivered to the farm to feed the soil to help grow the next set of crops. These will include cucumbers, kale, courgettes and onions.

In order to deliver fruit and vegetables to sites within hours of being picked, the produce is harvested in the early morning when the weather is at its coolest, loaded directly into crates, and driven to its destination, arriving at sites by about 8:00 am. The farm delivers the seasonal produce within a 1.5-hour radius, eliminating the need for a refrigerated van, which reduces energy use.

No fertilisers, herbicides or pesticides are used on the farm. Instead, Farmer Tom Morphew, CEO of Full Circle Farms, and his team, build soil fertility using organic compost and manures. This helps improve all ecosystem processes, such as the water cycle and mineral cycle availability. In a highly natural process, animals are also used to manage the land and help restore the soil. For example, a pig will support the turning of the soil and mixing-in of green renewers. This process feeds the nutrients back into the soil to help produce vegetables.

As well as helping to feed fans more sustainably, Sodexo Live!’s partnership with Full Circle Farms also helps to work towards its own CSR aims and objectives. Its target is to be carbon neutral for its own direct operations by 2025, and to reach Net Zero by 2040. Growing the regenerative farm offering will allow Sodexo Live! to achieve these aims and bolsters its Appetite for Action campaign to further reduce food waste. 

Paul Barber OBE, Brighton & Hove Albion deputy chairman & chief executive, said: “Brighton & Hove Albion is committed to becoming a truly sustainable venue, and excellent initiatives like this from our venue partner Sodexo Live!, will help us to achieve this. Not only does this help our food waste credentials, but it also helps to create many delicious dishes that our fans and guests love each time they visit the American Express Stadium.”

David Trotter, Divisional Managing Director (Sports & Stadia) at Sodexo Live! UK & Ireland, said: “Sodexo Live! is the global leader in the live industry, for good reason. We serve tens of thousands of customers each week, and we lead from the front by prioritising sustainability, food provenance, and education in everything we do. One of the best examples of this is through our partnership with Full Circle Farms. This is just the beginning at Brighton & Hove Albion, and we look forward to providing fresh fruit and vegetables in a more sustainable way to more venues and events across the UK.”

Tom Morphew, CEO of Full Circle Farms, added: “Our aim is to reduce and re-think food waste while supplying these venues, like Brighton & Hove Albion with an amazing range of seasonal, and sustainable, fruit and vegetables from the farm. Regenerative farming has numerous advantages, including educating people about where their favourite ingredients come from and how being part of nature benefits people’s health and wellbeing.”

Inspiring, insightful, gritty: Steve Coates wins FEA's Outstanding Contribution Award #

Plus Apprentice of the Year and Chair Award winners announced at FEA industry conference

He's insightful, inspiring and gritty.  Steve Coates was honoured at the FEA conference with the 2023 Outstanding Contribution to the Catering Equipment Industry Award. 

The award was presented by Paul Anderson, FEA chair, at the conference's gala dinner on Thursday 16 November, at Chesford Grange Hotel, Kenilworth.  He said Steve had also been described by friends, family and colleagues as astute, strong, direct, supportive, passionate, generous, fun loving, and someone with bold clarity of thinking.  Paul sited Steve's success in founding the Advance Group, which now has a turnover of £20million+ per year.  He also highlighted his support for young work seekers, his love of his family and his efforts for a variety of charities. 

As a member of the Foodservice Equipment Association's board, Steve has been a prime mover in several key events, including the restructuring of the association and, a few years later, its rebranding, from CESA to FEA.  His latest project is FEA's new Foodservice Carbon Professional (FCP) accreditation, which had been launched earlier that day during the conference.  Paul said Steve had been a passionate driving force in pushing FCP through, for which he thanked him enormously. 

Steve, who was joined at the dinner by his wife Felicity and their children Dani and Tom, said, "I'm so proud to accept this prestigious award.  I can honestly say it's a highlight of my career." 

Apprentice of the Year

This year the Apprentice of the Year, sponsored by John Gilbert, has been expanded to recognise anyone who has undertaken great learning or professional development.  The 2023 Award, which was presented during the gala dinner by John Gilbert and Simon Frost, was won by Morris Fowler of Falcon Foodservice Equipment.  His application exemplified how training and on the job experience can make a huge contribution, both to the individual's personal development and to the company itself!  Judges noted how, as well as playing integral roles in NPD, Morris had brought his hobby, modelling, into the workplace, using his skills at 3D printing to protype small parts in order to fast-track development and testing of new products.  Two entrants were Highly Commended in the Apprentice Award, they were Jakob Baumgart and David Ashbridge, both from Aggora. 

Chair's Award winners

Also during the gala dinner, Paul Anderson announced the winners of the 2023 Chair's Awards, which recognise individuals and organisations whose distinguished service has enhanced the foodservice equipment industry.  They were David Parsons of Winterhalter UK Ltd; Stephen Goodliff of Contacto; Tim Morgan of The Publicity Works; the late Fabio Gargantini, former secretary general of EFCEM (European Federation of Catering Equipment Manufacturers); Dr Samantha Mudie of Reading University; Kate Gould of Caterops; CFESA (the USA's Commercial Food Equipment Service Association); Chris Playford of Foster Refrigerator; and Steve Witt of Ecofast Environmental UK. 

The Foodservice Equipment Association (FEA) is the independent, authoritative voice of the foodservice equipment industry, representing nearly 200 companies who supply, service and maintain all types of commercial catering equipment - from utensils to full kitchen schemes.  For more information on FEA visit 

Sodexo UK & Ireland Chef Scoops Joint Win at Global Sustainable Chef Challenge #

Sodexo UK and Ireland is proud to announce that Sharon McConnell, from Northern Ireland, was joint winner of Sodexo’s global Sustainable Chef Challenge.

The Sustainable Chef Challenge highlights Sodexo’s commitment to sustainable food and its goal to ensure that 70% of its main dishes can be labelled ‘low carbon’ by 2030. It is run in partnership with Rational AG, Eaternity and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Sharon faced seven other Sodexo chefs from Brazil, Chile, France, Germany, India, United Arab Emirates and the USA in a live cook-off in Germany on 15 November.  The finalists were required to produce two delicious, low-carbon, sustainable yet practical dishes that minimised food waste.

On a stage, against the clock and under the watchful eye of a panel of experts that included the German three-Michelin star chef Thomas Bühner, Sharon impressed the judges with a gluten free, vegan friendly pistachio-crusted celeriac steak, followed by a vegan chocolate mousse with a honeycomb and coconut ice cream. As well as using low carbon ingredients, Sharon also ensured her dishes minimised food waste.

Sharon was declared joint winner alongside Brazilian competitor Ricardo Machado, and they were both presented with the Culinary Experience Grand Prize.

Commenting on her win, Sharon said “I am over the moon to have won, the standard was very high, and I was a little nervous, but I’m used to preparing food under pressure and I put in a lot of practice beforehand so once the competition began, the nerves fell away.

“Even back at school I felt most at home in the kitchen, so a career in catering was always on the cards. I joined Sodexo as a food service assistant 15 years ago and worked my way up. I hate wasting anything, particularly food, so I’ve always tried to keep it down. Volunteering with FareShare, which redistributes food to communities that need it, keeps me vigilant. But then you learn about the connection between food waste and climate change, and it fires you up even more.

“I was delighted to have had the opportunity to work with such talented people, united by a common purpose, paving the way for tasty and sustainable food.”

Charles Abraham, director, food platform at Sodexo UK & Ireland said, “It is fantastic that Sharon has been recognised as joint winner in our global sustainable chef competition – it showcases her ability and skills but also her commitment to sustainable eating. At Sodexo, we have a key role in positively impacting change to what people eat every day and how this impacts the environment and with chefs like Sharon championing this, it demonstrates the progress we are making and also that you have can great tasting, low-carbon dishes.”

Read Sharon’s blog here

CJ Lang launches ‘Indy Track’, powered by TWC #

Having already seen great traction with the SPAR Scotland SalesTrack platform, C J Lang & Son Ltd / SPAR Scotland is now launching its “Indy Track” portal, offering independent SPAR retailers the opportunity to benchmark their performance against others in the group.
C J Lang & Son, the wholesaler for SPAR in Scotland, announced the new service at its recent tradeshow in Aviemore and it is set to soft launch next week with an initial pool of independent SPAR retailers who are providing the wholesaler with their EPOS sales data. Many more retailers will be coming on board by the end of the year.
“Indy Track” is a sales analysis tool developed in conjunction with data consultancy TWC, who also power the SPAR Scotland SalesTrack platform, which reports both wholesale shipments and EPOS sales data in one platform; enabling suppliers to seamlessly track product performance through depots, into retail and out to the consumer. SalesTrack data can also be used to educate retailers on what is driving performance in their stores.
“Indy Track” is an extension of this premise, giving independent SPAR retailers who provide their EPOS data to C J Lang free access to their own portal. The Indy Track platform will enable retailers to interrogate their performance by category, supplier and brand, as well as product level, to identify range gaps and understand best sellers. Importantly, they will also be able to benchmark their performance against other independent retailers, as well as the company owned stores, within the group.

Suppliers who have a joint business plan in place will have complimentary access to the portal, as well as SPAR Scotland SalesTrack, as part of their terms.
Richard Collins, Trading Director, C J Lang & Son, said:
“The Indy Track portal will give our independent retailers invaluable information about how they are performing and even more importantly, help them to identify opportunities to further grow their business by understanding gaps in their range which they might not have previously been aware of. Indy Track will also arm suppliers with even greater insight about the performance of their products through our entire estate.”
Tom Fender, Development Director, TWC said:
“Having worked closely with the team at C J Lang over the past few years to launch and evolve the SalesTrack platform, we were delighted to develop this new portal with Richard and the team. C J Lang is a fantastic example of a business that is fully exploiting data to drive business performance, which very much aligns to our own mission of harnessing data to empower the wholesale, foodservice and convenience channels.”
For further information on TWC’s platform please visit

Win a Forest School Experience And a Term’s Supply of Yeo Valley Organic Yogurt! #

Yeo Valley Organic  launch Yeo Explore!
Free Seasonal Forest Finds Handout Available  for Schools & Parents
Trusted school partner empowers pupils to immerse themselves in the wonders of nature
Yeo Valley Organic is giving primary schools the chance to win an incredible forest school experience for its pupils and an entire term’s supply of Yeo Valley Organic Yogurt - as part of a new outdoorsy initiative – Yeo Explore!
The competition is inspired by the Somerset organic dairy supplier’s passion to empower people – especially young people – to make good choices every day in what they eat and what they do. Yeo Explore!  focuses on encouraging children to eat well and immerse themselves in the wonders of nature to help them flourish.
Open now for entries at, a day of adventure awaits led by a team of forestry experts, including a mini beast hunt, guided walks and den building, all to provide a well-rounded learning experience that champions nature and the great outdoors. The ‘udderly’ amazing prize also includes a term’s supply of deliciously smooth and creamy Yeo Valley Organic Yogurt, farmed by British farmers. Everyone who enters will receive a FREE Seasonal Forest Finds handout that can be used in outdoorsy lessons, extracurricular activities or given to pupils for adventures with parents and friends outside of school.
Speaking about the new initiative, Craig Dillon, Head of Sales, Wholesale and Foodservice at Yeo Valley Organic said;
“I’m delighted that we can support schools – and parents - through Yeo Explore! Outdoor learning offers  so many benefits for pupils, it boosts their development, supports good mental health and wellbeing, as well as strengthens their connection with nature, and makes learning more fun and inclusive. As a dedicated school partner, we hope as many pupils as possible will benefit in the long term from exploring the wonderful outdoors.”
The competition is open now at Primary school caterers simply need to enter by the  25th March 2024 and explain in no more than 150 words what it would mean to win.
Along with the Forest School Experience and a term’s worth of Yeo Valley Organic Yogurt, the prize also includes local PR for the winning school. This is all organised by Yeo Valley Organic to help raise awareness within the community about the importance of having adventures outside.
Loved by children and parents, the Yeo Valley Organic range includes delicious smooth and creamy one pot wonders that will satisfy little, and big, taste buds alike. Completely ‘bit-free’ and made from  goodness packed, 100% organic yogurt straight from British farms, the selection of natural and fruity favourites is the scrumptious way to fill rumbly tummies. Best of all, the pots are made from recycled materials and are recyclable, making Yeo Valley Organic the top pick for schools with a taste for sustainability.
To find out more visit

New Zealand’s pure south handpicked is crowned the best grass-fed steak in the world #

Alliance Group’s coveted Pure South Handpicked 55 Day Aged Beef scooped the best grass-fed steak in the world at this week’s World Steak Challenge Awards ceremony in London. It also received a host of other accolades including; the world’s best ribeye steak, the standard ­­­­­gold medal for its ribeye and a silver for its fillet.
The Pure South Handpicked brand is produced from the finest heritage breeds in the world. Following a stringent selection process, each carcass is assessed and graded against a list of criteria that includes pH balance, fat colour and cover, marbling score and meat colour.  Artisan butchers then age and mature the meat to create a range of grass-fed steak that consistently delivers world-class tenderness, succulence and flavour profiles.
Helen Scott, Regional General Manager at the Alliance Group, says: “We’re delighted to receive these globally recognised accolades. It was already a great honour to have won gold in the World Steak Challenge.  But to have our steak judged, for its robust, zesty, buttery and creamy flavour, as the world’s best grass-fed steak and world’s best ribeye is outstanding. 
“Just over five years ago, Alliance’s ambition to step up and become a world class grass-fed beef producer began.  These awards are testament to everyone in the value chain’s pursuit of excellence and our farmers hard work, day in, day out to raise the best grass-fed meat in the world.”

The wins come following the UK-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which came into force in May of this year, removing tariffs on 97% of imported products and staging the removal of tariffs on beef and sheep meat imports, with no duties at all from 2038.
Helen Scott continues: The Alliance Group is one of the largest exporters of red meat from New Zealand, producing free range and grass-fed beef, lamb and venison on their family farms. 

“Our prime pasture-fed beef and farming methods in New Zealand are quite different to the intensive high-impact systems often used around the world. It is reared using our natural, low intervention farming techniques in a low stress environment, and is always grass-fed, resulting in meat that’s full of flavour, lean, tender and nutritious.”

Following the FTA, Alliance Group has increased its market share in the UK in both retail and foodservice and has ambition for further growth in 2024 with NPD aimed at the UK market. This includes a Pure South Handpicked beef launch across retail, foodservice and wholesale channels.

RSPCA Assured - the RSPCA’s higher welfare food label and farm assurance scheme - is pleased to announce the appointment of Toby Baker as its new executive director. #

Toby will take up his role with RSPCA Assured on Wednesday 7 February 2024 and will also become a member of the RSPCA’s executive leadership team.  

Toby brings a wealth of experience to the charity, having spent his career to date working across various FMCG marketing and commercial organisations within the consumer healthcare, confectionery, sweet treats, cereal and dessert categories for GlaxoSmithKline, Wrigley, Burtons Biscuits, Cereal Partners Worldwide and Premier Foods.  

He has a proven track record in people, strategy and partnership development and delivery, to help drive growth within organisations. 

Reflecting on his new appointment, Toby said: “I am passionate about all animal welfare but especially within farming and so I am really thrilled to be able to join an organisation that is clear on its purpose, achieving the highest standards of animal welfare in farming.  

“The opportunity to join RSPCA Assured as the executive director represents such an amazing opportunity for me to be able to bring my commercial experience to add value to an already successful organisation and I cannot wait to get started.” 

David Smith, chair of RSPCA Assured, commented: “I am thrilled to welcome Toby to the team. He brings extensive commercial experience to the role which, combined with his passion for animal welfare, will support us to achieve our strategic ambition for more than 50% of farmed animals in the UK to be reared to RSPCA welfare standards by 2030.” 

Further information about RSPCA Assured can be found here.

Insights Lab by Egg Soldiers: Christmas Menu Innovation 2023 #

Insights Lab by Egg Soldiers, the pioneering food trends service from one of the UK’s top independent food agencies, is producing a market-first report on Christmas 2023 restaurant menus, covering the key formats, cuisines, ingredients, styles and flavour combinations being harnessed by UK chefs for festive offerings this year beyond the norm, translated to provide actionable trend insight for NPD and menu development.

The comprehensive report, which is aimed at food & drink teams seeking cutting-edge culinary inspiration for Christmas 2024/25, will soon be available, with Insights Lab revealing three of the many interest areas in its latest free article (which can be found here).

‘Perfecting Party Food’ is the first of the three, with Insights Lab’s Head of Trends, Kateline Porritt, calling out restaurant ‘snack’ menus as hotbeds for culinary innovation and a perfect hunting ground for festive development thought-starters.

“While the ongoing cost-of-living crisis is sure to rage on through the winter period, pushing consumers to think twice before shelling out for second rounds; Christmas parties are sure to go ahead all over the country, with festive snacks, bites, nibbles and sharing platters launching with aplomb to cater for myriad merrymakers,” Kateline says.

“Format and flavour inspiration for Christmas party food development can be found on a number of pioneering restaurants' snack sections this winter, with classic Christmas decadence and comfort slipping effortlessly into the mix as lines blur between canapé and festive bar snack.

“Take Medjool dates wrapped in smoked bacon, baked with smoked garlic honey, found at The White Horse in Cheshire; liver parfait and fruit jelly mini-maritozzi at OMBRA in Hackney; tiger prawns with 'nduja butter and chimichurri at Firebird in Soho; and spiced steak tartare shells at The Black Friar in Manchester.”

‘Decadent Christmas Creations’ is also discussed in the free article, with festive sandwich extravagance always a crowd-pleaser.

“Sandwiches live long in the memory these days, with The Black Pig's (Borough Market) showstopping Christmas iteration now stealing the limelight on socials.

“We're talking confit leek mayo, braised spiced red cabbage, slow-roast pork shoulder, smoked turkey, cranberry & orange sauce, and a pecan, sage & onion crumble.

“Yes, it's all in one sandwich. A toasted ciabatta, to be precise. And the best part about it? Christmas gravy French dip.”

Insights Lab by Egg Soldiers provides detailed reports and immersive workshops to drive innovation for F&B businesses, with the team producing a regular food trends newsletter and free insight deep-dives to inspire NPD teams and spark conversation.

To register your interest in the full Christmas Menu Trends 2023 report, please follow this link.

Going the extra mile for others: FEA’s Charitable Endeavour Award winners #

New awards celebrate the huge efforts of so many in the foodservice industry.

Who goes the extra mile to support charity?  When it comes to the foodservice equipment industry, the answer is, lots of people and organisations!   The FEA’s inaugural Charitable Endeavour Awards, announced at the association’s annual charity dinner on 15 November, celebrate the individuals, teams and businesses that have gone the extra mile to raise funds for charity.  The awards are sponsored by warewashing specialist Meiko. 

“It was inspiring to see how many entrants there were,” says Lawrence Hughes CFSP, chair of the FEA revenue and marketing group, “and to read their wonderful stories.  The winners were fantastic, of course, but judging was incredibly hard and, if we could have done, we’d have awarded prizes to everyone who was nominated.”    

The four Charitable Endeavour Awards were presented during the dinner by Lawrence and Paul Anderson who, as well as being FEA chair, is managing director of Meiko UK. 

Marston’s won the Company Category Award; H2O Publishing picked up the Team Category Award; Nick Archer of Archer Catering Systems and James Connolly of Celltherm Coldrooms won the Group Category Award; and Thomas Bentham from Unox won the Individual Category Award. 

The award winning endeavours:
Marston’s entered a team for the Annual Dragon Boat Race and broke the record for the most money raised in the event’s 19 year history!  They raised funds for the Wolverhampton Rotary Club and the Marston's Charitable Foundation. 

H2O’s annual industry football match, in memory of their late colleague Morag Wilson, supports Bowel Cancer UK.  The event attracts many supporters and this year raised over £3,500.

Nick Archer and James Connolly organise the commercial catering industry walking group, which brings together lots of different people from the industry to walk together and raise funds for charity, two or three times a year. 

Thomas Bentham and his brother George ‘canoed against cancer’, paddling right across the country from the Irish Sea to the North Sea to raise funds for East Cheshire Hospice and Macmillan cancer support, in memory of their late father.  Their efforts raised a total of over £11,000 for their causes.

“These are new and exciting awards and the reaction from the industry has been brilliant,” says Lawrence.  “I think they have really caught peoples’ imagination.  Our industry is very strong when it comes to supporting charity and helping the vulnerable, and these awards are a wonderful way to celebrate all the hard work and investment, in time and money, that so many give for free.”

The image with this press release shows Andy Kershaw of Marston’s in the centre, with FEA chair Paul Anderson on his left and Lawrence Hughes on his right.

The Foodservice Equipment Association (FEA) is the independent, authoritative voice of the foodservice equipment industry, representing nearly 200 companies who supply, service and maintain all types of commercial catering equipment - from utensils to full kitchen schemes.  For more information on FEA visit 

From Farm to Feast! RSPCA Assured launches new Christmas TV Advert #

Beyond turkey and trimmings, RSPCA Assured is putting compassion on our plates this Christmas

RSPCA Assured, the RSPCA’s ethical food label and assurance scheme, launched its new Christmas advert today, inspiring consumers to make a difference for farmed animals by choosing higher welfare food for their festive feasts.

The 30-second advert, set to Tchaikovsky’s enchanting ‘Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy’, sneaks behind the scenes of Christmas at home and showcases the joy of celebrating and sharing food with loved ones. 
The advert will air across the Channel 4 network from 27 November to 24 December, with a kick-off spot on Steph’s Packed Lunch, as well as appearing alongside programmes such as The Great British Bake Off, Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas, Come Dine With Me, A Place in the Sun and Grand Designs.
Xenia Kingsley, Senior Marketing Manager at RSPCA Assured, said: “Our Christmas campaign this year focuses on urging those who eat meat, fish and dairy to consider farmed animal welfare, and to make more mindful choices across their entire festive feast.
“From smoked salmon and eggs on toast for breakfast, to traditional turkey and pigs in blankets at lunch, to the leftover sandwiches on boxing day, sharing lots of food with family and friends is at the heart of every Christmas celebration. But, before people relax and enjoy these delicious treats, we want them to stop and consider where their food comes from.
“Alongside encouraging consumers to believe in RSPCA Assured and see our label as the gold standard for animal welfare, our Christmas campaign aims to increase support for our member farms by highlighting their commitment to treating animals with compassion and respect. We hope this will drive demand for their produce and see a great Christmas for them all.”

The advert will also appear on Meta (Facebook, Instagram), TikTok and YouTube. RSPCA Assured labelled products can be found in all major supermarkets including Aldi, Asda, Co-op, Lidl, Marks and Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Tesco.
Find out more about turkey, chicken, hen, dairy cowpig and salmon welfare on the RSPCA Assured scheme.
Click here to watch the advert now.
Share your higher welfare festive feast with RSPCA Assured on social media by using the hashtag #BelieveInRSPCAAssured. 

Compass Announces Launch of Regional Community Skills and Learning Hubs for Training and Excellence #

Regional community skills and learning hubs across the country will provide learning and development opportunities for people both within Compass and from local communities

Supports the business’ ambition to support one million people by 2030 through “Our Social Promise” 

Compass Group UK & Ireland has announced the launch of Xcelerate – its new regional community skills and learning hubs for training and excellence. These first in class training facilities will be provided in partnership with its clients, with the view to train thousands of people every year.
Xcelerate regional community skills and learning hubs will be equipped with cutting-edge technology allowing people to train with the latest innovations to provide customers and clients with great food and great service. Xcelerate provides training for every aspect of hospitality including culinary, facilities management, baristas, receptionists, event managers, hosts and bartenders.
The first centre and flagship site due to launch is at Edgbaston Stadium, Birmingham, in early 2024 – called “Xcelerate with Edgbaston”. The state-of-the-art facilities are going to be able to provide both front of house, back of house, facilities management and IT digital solutions training, providing essential skills for those looking to build careers in hospitality; as well as providing job opportunities at the stadium itself, working across Edgbaston’s range of customer and corporate hospitality spaces. In addition, Xcelerate with Edgbaston will also work with social impact partner organisations, providing local people with access to training, as well as offering cookery classes to budding home chefs.
These new regional community skills and learning hubs for training and excellence are being created following conversations with its own colleagues as well as external feedback, which concluded that moving to a regional model for training would have a greater impact than a single site. The sites not only enable Compass to support its people nearer to where they live and work, but also provides more opportunities in relation to outreach, where each site will support local community groups.
There are ongoing discussions, with clients across the UK, with the view to launching Xcelerate at new locations in the future. The training options will be scaled up and down dependent on the facilities created at each site.
Commenting on the launch of Xcelerate – Robin Mills, Chief Executive Officer, Compass Group UK & Ireland said: “We are delighted to be launching our new regional community centres for training and excellence. We believe the food and support services sector is a barrierless industry and are committed to providing opportunities for all. Access to training is critical to help people develop the skills they need to build fulfilling careers. By setting up centres in partnership with our clients around the country, we are going to be able to support many people both in our business, as well as the communities in which we work.”
Jonathan Foot, Head of Apprenticeships and Early Careers, Compass Group UK & Ireland followed up by saying: “It’s great to be launching Xcelerate. Our regional community skills and learning hubs will not only be providing training and development, but also promoting the opportunities that exist within the hospitality sector. I am really looking forward to our first site, Xcelerate with Edgbaston, going live in early 2024. The site is poised to make a significant impact in the local community, and we are really looking forward to sharing the details in the coming weeks.” 

Amadeus announces exclusive partnership with Champagne Lanson #

In a fusion of culinary art and world-class beverages, catering company Amadeus has proudly announced its new supplier partnership with Champagne Lanson, leaders in premium champagne supply.

The partnership with Champagne Lanson was driven by Amadeus’ thirst to upgrade their premium offer with customers across all NEC Group venues, including ICC Birmingham’s back-of-house, chef’s table concept ‘Dine By Amadeus’.

Designed to add even greater variety to the offer presented to event organisers when choosing menus, Dine By Amadeus provides exclusivity and privacy, located within the bustling ICC kitchen. The Amadeus team can now showcase the great quality champagne and food pairings to prospective clients when undertaking conference and banqueting menu tastings.

The partnership also extends to premium experiences at Birmingham’s two arenas – Resorts World Arena and Utilita Arena Birmingham- where guests can book premium hospitality packages including delicious dining, private balcony seating and exclusive bar access at over 200 shows and events each year.

Founded in 1760, Maison Lanson is one of the world’s oldest Champagne Houses, and has maintained their family values for over 260 years. “The partnership represents a union of shared values and a mutual passion for excellence. This collaboration is more than a business venture; it's a celebration of the finer things in life,” said Laura Dawson at Champagne Lanson.

As part of the new partnership, Amadeus worked closely with the Champagne Lanson team to provide exclusive ranges and create exciting point of sale activity - including a champagne bike, which the team rollout at their venues and events.

Marc Frankl, Food and Beverage Director at Amadeus said: “Partnerships are vital to our success, and we are thrilled to welcome Champagne Lanson into the Amadeus family.

“The synergies between our values at Amadeus and Champagne Lanson in both customer satisfaction and high-quality will undoubtedly provide our guests across our venues with elevated dining and event experiences.”

Nicky Burgess, Head of Premium Sales and Groups said: "We are very excited to bring Champagne Lanson to our existing premium dining experience with clients. Partnering with the highest quality champagne supplier aligns perfectly with our commitment to offer only the best.”

Clients and customers of Amadeus can now expect a greater premium champagne and culinary offering, with events, galas, and gatherings further enhanced by the bubbly brilliance of the Champagne Lanson range.

To book a premium hospitality experience at your next arena show, please visit:

For more information, please visit

For the latest Amadeus job opportunities, please click here.

For more information on Amadeus ESG, please click here.

Chef’s insight: Bull’s-Eye unveils trends to shake up 2024 menus #

Chefs reveal that emerging flavours and key dining styles are crucial to keep up with consumer demands in 2024 and beyond1. Kraft Heinz’s premium BBQ brand, Bull’s-Eye polled industry culinary experts via its esteemed Table 57 community and The Craft Guild of Chefs network to  discern the pivotal trends that will help operators prepare for the new year.  

Flavour Explosion:
Chefs at the forefront of the industry predict a flavour revolution in 2024, with Korean (38%), Caribbean (35%), and Mexican (32%) emerging as the  leading flavours poised to dominate. This indicates a growing appetite among diners for adventurous tastes and a desire to explore new and exciting ingredients when eating out of home.
Not to be overlooked, Eastern European cuisine also emerged as a top choice by chefs surveyed (12%). And with nearly half of consumers interested in trying Hungarian food and 3 in 5 eager to explore Polish food, it’s evident that the curious consumer is looking for more variety2.

Authenticity Pays:
Authenticity (54%), value (58%) and innovation (32%) are identified as key drivers to attract diners. As diners actively seek more genuine experiences when eating out, it is increasingly important for operators to engage further with consumers by aligning their dishes and communication to tap into this growing trend.  

Culinary Adventures Beyond Meat:
While new flavours take the spotlight, cooking styles have also been explored. A significant 51% of surveyed chefs anticipate a resurgence in street food popularity, with fire pit (51%) and BBQ (38%) cooking styles expected to influence consumer demands.
Bull's-Eye's recent consumer research3 adds another layer to the evolving culinary landscape, revealing a growing preference for vegetable-based options over traditional meat alternatives. This aligns with the 71% of chefs who regard mushrooms as an excellent vegetarian option to serve. The versatility and potential of vegetables are being looked to when considering how to enhance plant-based offerings. One chef shared, "Vegetables, with a bit of creativity, shine – think celeriac steak, aubergine shawarma, cauliflower wings, or corn ribs."

Artemis Argyrides, Foodservice Marketing Lead, Northern Europe at Kraft Heinz says “Gaining insight from chefs and those at the heart of our industry is key to ensuring we continue to support operators.  By sharing this, we seek to help operators adapt their offering and create winning menus that keep up with diner’s evolving preferences.
“Consumers want authentic and new flavours to try, this can be difficult for operators in a time where there is still a skills gap in the industry. Bull’s-Eye sauces are so versatile, helping operators to recreate these authentic dining experiences diners crave. Consider adding Bull’s-Eye Original sauce to pork ribs or to add zing to a pulled mushroom burger.”

Bull’s-Eye is available at all major wholesalers or to find out more, contact
To register interest in attending future Bull’s-Eye supper club events, email

Gather & Gather reveals refreshed brand proposition to mark its 10-year milestone #

Gather & Gather is celebrating its tenth birthday! To mark the milestone, it’s refreshed its brand proposition to celebrate the remarkable Gather & Gather journey to date and define its vision and goals for the next decade.

At the heart of the refreshed proposition are Gather & Gather’s ideals ‘We’re Brave & Bold’, ‘We Stand Together’ and ‘We Do Good Things’, supported by five focus pillars that shape Gather & Gather’s commitment and creativity around food, coffee, technology, connections and interactions, and sustainability.

An eye-catching website has been launched, and all site teams are being supported with new marketing and counter signage to ensure brand consistency across the Gather & Gather estate in the UK and Ireland.

Ten years ago, Gather & Gather burst onto the catering scene with a clear purpose to challenge the status quo and do things differently. Today, Gather & Gather is a more than £215million company, boasting an enviable, diverse, UK and Ireland-wide portfolio of workplace and university clients, ranging from technology and media to banking groups and logistics centres.

Gather & Gather’s success lays in its ability to remain relevant. Over the past decade it’s constantly adapted to the changing hospitality landscape and customer needs, staying ahead of the curve whilst remaining true to its ideals which still resonate today.

‘We’re Brave & Bold’, ‘We Stand Together’ and ‘We Do Good Things’ remain at the heart of the business, shaping the culture and defining every client, customer and team member interaction.

The five focus pillars that support the ideals and shape the modern Gather & Gather experience are:

Food mavericks in the room: Fearing the norm, not change, Gather & Gather chefs are creative and brave. They always know where their food comes from – namely local seasonal suppliers, what’s in their from-scratch, authentic dishes and show sustainability best practice wherever they can.

Our marriage to coffee: Devoted to the science, sustainability and surprise that amazing coffee brings, the team sources direct from farmers committed to sustainable agricultural practices and workers’ rights, always paying a fair price. The Gather & Gather unique profile coffee is roasted in East London and the Gather & Gather Barista Academy ensures a perfect cup is served every time.

Build lifelong connections: Creating a culture of togetherness and shared values and experiences, Gather & Gather nurtures a transparent and empathetic approach partnership with suppliers, colleagues, clients and consumers.

Do good things: Helping the environment and benefiting society is fundamental to Gather & Gather’s purpose of community and coming together – from suppliers to recipes, packaging to food waste, and energy reduction to supporting our local communities.

Thrive in a digital world: Trailblazing tech solutions that work seamlessly and intuitively at every digital touchpoint, making life easy for our clients, customers and teams.

Allister Richards, Founder of Gather & Gather said: “A decade ago, we started Gather & Gather with an idea of building a food business that could challenge the status quo – a business which understands and celebrates the power of hospitality to connect people. I’m delighted to say that hasn’t changed. I believe in our vision even more now because I have seen firsthand that when you unite talented people with a common purpose, you can achieve truly great things.

“The leadership team has constantly moved things on for the good, taking our founding principles and building on them in a way that acknowledges our scale and presence within the market. So, ten years in, I’ve never been more proud or excited about the future. Thank you to everyone who has supported the journey so far. Onwards to the next ten!”

Matt Symonds, Managing Director for Gather & Gather, explains further: “To mark our tenth year, we have looked at what’s important to us, our clients, and our teams.  And the result has been incredibly exciting. The founding principles of Gather & Gather are still at the core of what we do, we’ve just given them a shakeup through our brand refresh.

“The reimagination of the Gather & Gather brand reflects our remarkable journey so far, the changing catering landscape and our goals for the future. It continues to drive a point of difference between us and the competition, it competes even better with the high street and gives our teams a sense of belonging. And, importantly, it recognises that the needs of our clients and customers have materially shifted over the past few years. It’s been an amazing process and we’re so excited to now share the fruits of our work with everyone.”

A ‘The Future Starts Here’ conference and online event brought Gather & Gather teams together to celebrate the 10th birthday and launch the refreshed brand proposition, together with the initiatives and developments that will futureproof the business for the next ten years and beyond.

Levy Europe new public caterer at the Johan Cruijff ArenA #

The Johan Cruijff ArenA has selected Levy Europe as its new public caterer. Renowned market leader in stadium catering and part of Compass Group, Levy Europe and the ArenA have partnered together to offer the ultimate experience to its two million visitors annually. Together with a redesign and refurbishment, a wide range of food and drink experiences delivered through innovative services will boost enjoyment of football matches, concerts and other world-class events at the ArenA. The new partnership is set to commence on January 1st 2024. 

Levy is market leader in the field of catering at sports and entertainment venues. Its venue partners in the UK include the world-class Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and Aston Villa’s Villa Park. The highly experienced caterer, who counts eight Premier League football club stadiums within its portfolio, will bring proven innovations, data-driven services and an enhanced retail offer to the ArenA. Levy Europe will be leading operations at the Johan Cruijff ArenA, supported by its locally-based colleagues, Compass Group Netherlands.  

The Johan Cruijff ArenA is set to be the first stadium in the Netherlands to offer a variety of innovative self-service options. The checkout-free kiosk and self-order screens will ensure a more streamlined and efficient experience for its visitors. In addition to fan favorites, an enhanced menu will further improve the culinary options available. Data and insights are key to how Levy Europe plans to deliver best-in-class services to visitors at the ArenA, from the Ajax supporter to the P!NK fan. 

In conjunction with Ajax, the ArenA and Levy Europe, a group of supporters will be taking part in a trial tasting session prior to the first match in the new year. The new checkout-free kiosk and self-order screens will initially be introduced in the Second Ring on the eastern side of the stadium in January, with a phased approach being deployed in the rest of the ArenA throughout 2024 and 2025. 

Levy Europe and the ArenA are committed to work on being environmental leaders within their field and are steadfast in their desire to make a difference to the planet. Levy Europe was selected by the ArenA as their new partner based on their impressive Climate Net Zero targets which align with the stadium's sustainability goals. These goals include a plant-forward approach, actively reducing meat protein, introducing eco-friendly options, and minimising food waste. 

‘We are keen to give all our visitors, from Ajax supporters to P!NK fans, an unforgettable experience. That is what we are all about here at the Johan Cruijff ArenA. Which is why we have teamed up with leading catering partner Levy Europe to take the next innovative step towards providing our guests with a great degree of customised convenience, service and event catering.’, says Tanja Dik, CEO Johan Cruijff ArenA. 

Jon Davies, Managing Director, Levy Europe, says of the partnership: "Securing the public catering for the iconic Johan Cruijff ArenA is not just an exciting win, it is testament to our commitment to expanding into Europe. We are thrilled that the Johan Cruijff ArenA will be a flagship site and with our shared passion for the planet we can showcase together that things can be done differently. We can’t wait to bring our market-leading taste of passion and innovation to the stadium and its fans. This partnership is not just about serving food and drink, it's about creating memorable experiences that elevate every moment within the walls of the ArenA."

Lumina Intelligence Eating & Drinking Out Panel research finds stormy weather in October dampened social dining out #

The latest research from Lumina Intelligence Eating & Drinking Out Panel (4WE 29/10/2023) shows that consumer confidence has improved when compared to October last year, encouraging more UK adults to eat or drink out – visits are up +2ppts to 56%. However, because of the poor weather and ongoing general financial strains, frequency has flatlined at 1.4 occasions per week.

Lumina Intelligence data also reveals that consumers are choosing lower-ticket options when eating out of home, with lunch and dinner seeing a boost: up +0.3ppts and +2.4ppts respectively. Necessity was a key driver: more social channels, including restaurants, failed to gain share in October.
Affordability is driving growth in lower-cost channels
As winter approaches, the cost of heating homes starts to loom ‒ causing consumers to become more cautious about spend. This leads value-conscious consumers to trade down to lower-cost channels: Lumina data shows QSR has seen a rise of +1.2ppts in share, and retail occasions have risen by +1.6ppts.

This growth in retail occasions led to a rise in sandwich purchases in the period, which are up by +1.6ppts as consumers buy cheaper sandwiches on the go.
Pubs struggle to capitalise on Rugby World Cup
October’s above-average rainfall and stormy weather prompted more consumers to watch the Rugby World Cup at home rather than heading out to pubs & bars. As a result, share of occasions fell by -1.9ppts.

The increase in consumers choosing to drink at home rather than visiting more costly out-of-home venues was also driven by the rises in alcohol duty, which have in turn led to hikes in the prices of alcoholic drinks: the latest Lumina Intelligence Eating & Drinking Out Panel data show drink-only occasions are down -0.9ppts year-on-year.

About Lumina Intelligence Eating & Drinking Out Panel
Lumina Intelligence Eating & Drinking Out Panel is based on 78,000 surveys across the year, built up from a nationally representative weekly sample of 1,500 shoppers. Our comprehensive coverage includes over 900 operators from across all out of home channels – including restaurants, pubs & bars, cafes & coffee shops, fast food, bakery & sandwich shops, restaurants and retail channels.

For more on out of home food & drink consumption in the UK, and to access our cost-effective consumer insight and data solution, go to:

First ever Amazon Just Walk Out technology store within a hospital premises #

One Retail teams up with Princess Royal Hospital to deliver new retail offers.

The world’s first checkout-free store using Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology in a healthcare location, has today launched in The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust – in partnership with One Retail and noviniti. Part of the new two-storey Main Entrance and Admin Hub under construction at the Princess Royal Hospital, the Market Express store will be accessible to Telford patients, visitors and staff.

Shopping at a location with Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology is designed to be an effortless experience. A guest enters the store by using their credit card, debit card or mobile wallet at the entry gate. The technology detects what the shopper takes from or returns to shelves and creates a virtual shopping session. When the guest completes the shopping experience, they can leave the store without waiting in line. The credit card, debit card or mobile wallet they used to enter the store is charged for items taken. Just Walk Out technology is made possible by artificial intelligence-like computer vision and deep learning techniques, including generative AI, to accurately determine who took what in any retail environment.
This Just Walk Out technology-enabled store provides an expanded range of hot and cold food to go, such as sandwiches and salads, as well as sundries such as chilled meals and groceries, and even toiletries. Guests can also obtain hot beverages from Change Please, a social enterprise that donates all profits to tackling homelessness.

In addition, the newly opened Costa Coffee store will serve the same beverages and range of food as its High Street stores, including toasties and breakfast items. The Costa will also include self-service kiosks, a Click & Collect service available via the Costa Club app, and a partnership with Too Good to Go, helping minimise food waste. This new offering will complement existing catering arrangements within the hospital. 

Part of a multimillion-pound investment, the main entrance development is intended to transform the “front door” of the hospital. This new retail offering also provides additional choices for food and drinks and a better experience for everyone.

The two-storey development also supports the Trust’s valued clinical and administrative teams through additional modern workspaces. Phase two includes the opening of a dedicated planned care hub in early 2024, including new theatres and patient consultation rooms. With this development, the Trust will provide more day-case surgery at Telford, reducing waiting times and improving the patient experience.  

Louise Barnett, Chief Executive at The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, said: “We welcome this new partnership and are proud to be part of such an exciting new venture. We have listened to our patients, visitors and colleagues, who asked us to enhance our existing food and retail offer, including in the evenings. It has been positive to see so many people benefitting from the new services.
“We are continually striving to improve our facilities for our patients, their carers, visitors and our colleagues. This investment is the first phase of our exciting investment into the Princess Royal Hospital, which will enable us to deliver excellent care for all the communities we serve.”

Andrew Jones, One Retail, Managing Director commented: “This technology is a first in a healthcare setting and perfectly responds to the mandate for food and drinks being readily available for staff. This technology installation can be used by staff, visitors, and patients. This is a major step forward for the Princess Royal Hospital and brings together the best in innovation, convenience, and quality offerings.”
Marc Hastings, CEO of noviniti said: “We are delighted that the doors to the new two-storey Main Entrance and Admin Hub at the Princess Royal Hospital are now open. Our partnership with The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust and One Retail has greatly improved the staff, patients and visitors’ experience with a Costa Coffee and frictionless convenience store. This innovative shopping experience is a first within healthcare and I’m sure we will see this solution being adopted within other NHS Trusts.”

Pubs still command the highest share of hospitality spend but must diversify to keep up with consumer trends according to new research from KAM and the BII. #

Insight consultancy KAM have partnered with the BII (British Institute of Innkeeping) to launch the ultimate Pub Roadmap: a robust and practical toolkit for the evolving pub industry.
Supported by Brixton Brewery and Brakes, the report contains feedback from pub customers and publicans. As well as card spending data provided by Hospitality Data Insights (HDI) which tracks the debit & credit card spending of 10.2 million unique customers across 180,000 uniquely identifiable hospitality venues.
Steve Alton, CEO BII: “Proudly partnering with the leading industry insight and research consultancy, KAM, we wanted to provide an essential toolkit, based on real data from our sector to allow operators to assess their businesses against the opportunities available to them. Consumer’s needs have significantly evolved over recent years, starting with the pandemic and changing habits, through to the current cost of living crisis, and we must adapt our offer accordingly.”
The report states that pubs still command the biggest share of consumer spend (29%) compared with other hospitality sectors such as fast food (16%), delivery (14%) or casual dining (5%) according to data from Hospitality Data Insights (HDI).
Share of consumer spend across core hospitality channels has remained relatively flat year-on-year, with a slight migration from pubs, casual dining and other restaurants, towards fast-food/takeaway and coffee & sandwich shops. KAM points to the impact of the cost-of-living crisis being potentially at play here with people changing how they’re spending their money.
The pub customer base is levelling out
The research also found that the pub landscape is levelling out as the wider population re-engages with their locals. Overall, the pub customer base had shifted slightly in recent years; post pandemic, it was the younger people and men who were the quickest back into the on trade, but the older age groups are now accounting for a bigger proportion of spend. The 18–34-year-old age group still makes up the highest share of spend in UK pubs and bars (28%) and are the age group who visit most frequently.
Blake Gladman, Strategy & Insight Director, KAM: “Both the share of spend and visit frequency figures for this year highlight a levelling out of consumer behaviour and potentially an end to the chaos experienced over the last few years for the industry. This more stable customer base should give us confidence that the shape of the market we have now IS the shape of the market. Therefore, it represents a point in time from where the industry can use as the platform from which to grow. We’ve launched The Pub Roadmap to provide critical knowledge and advice so venues can continue to improve the offer and service that the great British pub can provide.”
The research also shows that average dwell time in pubs is slightly down vs 2022, with a net decrease of 4%, with women (-12%) and 55+ age groups (-7%) showing the strongest decline. This is likely to be driven by a bigger shift in behaviour however - the rise in drink-led compared with food-led occasions. ‘Drink-only’ visits to pubs have increased significantly accounting for 36% of visits in 2023 compared with 26% in 2022.
KAM suggests that the fact we’ve not seen share of spend taken from pubs, suggests that the ‘drinking occasion’ remains a core footfall driver and is still a key differentiator for pubs compared to other on-trade venues. Pubs, however, must ensure that the focus is on delivering quality, value for money, an inspiring range and an experience that customers can’t easily replicate at home when it comes to their drink offer.
Jez Galaun, Brixton Brewery co-founder: “Recent research with KAM showed that craft beer offers a real opportunity for publicans to drive revenue growth with a well thought out range, as 61% of people look for their craft beer fix when they are at the pub. In particular, they are after brews with a strong local connection and a compelling story; quality, premium experiences and low alcohol options.  Our mission is to unite people through the vibrant flavours of Brixton, whether they’re near or far. We've always focused on crafting a diverse range of approachable modern classics, from our flagship Coldharbour Lager and Reliance Pale Ale to exciting limited-edition releases, catering to all tastes.” 
Customers are sympathetic of recent prices
Despite the increased cost of a pint, the research showed that many customers are tolerant of recent price increases and have empathy with the pressures that pubs are currently facing. 76% of respondents said they expect pub prices to increase this year compared to last and 51% think it’s acceptable for prices in pubs to increase in 2023 compared to 2022.
Blake Gladman, KAM: “Whilst it’s reassuring to know that many customers are sympathetic to the impacts that wider social economic factors are having on the average price of a pint, it doesn’t mean that they like it. 51% find it acceptable that pub prices have increased but the level of acceptance is decreasing (was 80% in 2022). In other words, pub customers, will accept price increases up to a point, but it’s the value for money balance which is critical in ensuring that they are willing to pay the price.”
Interestingly the research found that ‘quality of food’ is even more important than ‘cheap prices’ or ‘promotions’ in terms of what value for money means to pub customers. 82% said they’d rather have a smaller portion of better-quality food than a large portion of poorer quality when dining in a pub.
Premiumisation and customisation remains a growing opportunity
‘Premiumisation’ and quality is one of the key gaps which the report identifies between what customers want and what British pubs are delivering. According to KAM there is a strong disconnect between the desire from pub customers for a more premium experience and the pro-activeness from publicans in encouraging their staff to upsell premium options. KAM suggests this represents a huge missed opportunity for pubs to maximise the potential sales uplift.
Pub customers also want a more customised experience: 70% of pub customers say they want to be able to customise their food orders (52% for drinks) in pubs yet only 51% of publicans believe it’s important for them to offer the ability for food and drink to be customised and personalised in their venues.
Blake Gladman, Strategy & Insight Director, KAM: “While carrying out this research we’ve seen some phenomenal examples from pub operators of how they are addressing the key consumer trends impacting customer behaviours identified within this new report, including sustainability, premiumisation, personalisation and crafting an exceptional food and drink offer. A consistency across all of these operators is how they not only listen to their customers, but also expand their thinking beyond their current customer mix to understand what more they can do to attract new consumers and to always remain relevant. The Pub Roadmap is designed to give publicans critical insights to help them identify opportunities to evolve their businesses.”
Find out more about the report here:

Elior UK launches Microsoft HoloLens 2 mixed reality technology #

Elior UK, leading contract caterer, is rolling out brand-new mixed reality (MR) headsets to enhance training for its teams serving healthcare and retirement living sectors. HoloLens 2, Microsoft’s MR technology, entails wearable glasses with multiple sensors, advanced optics, and holographic processing that meld seamlessly with its environment. The holograms can be used to display information, blend with the real world, or even simulate a virtual world.
As the first contract caterer to embrace this technology in the UK, Elior UK will be using the MR headsets to facilitate training programmes around texture-modified foods in healthcare and retirement living. HoloLens 2 technology will provide trainers with more flexibility by ensuring training can be held anywhere at any time, saving the business valuable downtime, and reducing travel time, expenses costs and carbon footprint for trainers and trainees. 
HoloLens 2 glasses are fully wireless and respond to hand gestures, meaning there is no restriction of movement and no need for hand-held controllers, making the technology perfect for a kitchen environment. Multiple people can connect to a training session while still being able to interact with one another.
The technology can also be used as an integrated business tool. HoloLens 2 can be used to conduct scoping visits at client sites with only one person needed to travel to the location. The technology’s integration with Microsoft operating ensures multiple people can join the platform via Teams and witness the scope in real time.
Since its pilot sessions, HoloLens 2 has been a huge success for Elior, with high levels of engagement from team members and positive feedback. Elior is embarking on a companywide rollout of HoloLens 2 across all six catering brands during 2024.
Laura Tighe, managing director health, care & retirement living, Elior UK, said: “The integration of cutting-edge HoloLens 2 technology is transformative in the way we train our catering professionals. It allows us to be laser focused in our delivery, and provide training to our teams from anywhere, at short notice.
“There is no room for error when it comes to texture-modified foods. HoloLens lets us be even more specific and ensures our catering professionals have clarity of textures and consistencies through the lens so our residents can be well nourished and enjoy their meals.”

Bidfood reveals a third new depot added to its network in 2023 #

Following the announcement of a third new depot set to open in the Midlands, Bidfood, one of the UK’s leading foodservice providers, has confirmed Worcester as its location, taking its total number of sites up to 27.

The Worcester depot, which is due to open in 2025, will boast approx 60,000 sq ft and will be the latest addition to Bidfood’s growing infrastructure, adding to the Glasgow and Bedfordshire sites, which both started operating earlier this year.

Located on the Worcester Six Business Park, this latest network development will provide excellent transport links to the Midlands region and serve the communities in which it operates by providing around 200 new jobs to local people.

Mark Wood, Chief Operating Officer at Bidfood said, “Worcester will provide an excellent addition to our network and offer some much needed capacity in and around the Birmingham area.

“The introduction of yet another new depot continues to emphasise the importance that we place on long term investment in our infrastructure. The addition of this new depot will further enhance our ability to provide our customers with service excellence and ultimately place us closer to them.”

This month also marks the official opening of Bidfood’s latest depot in Bedfordshire, becoming one of the company’s largest sites to date at 160,000 sq. ft. and strengthening its service across the South East of England.

Further updates will follow.