To say that Ian Daly is an expert in the food industry would be an understatement. He spent the first 10 years of his career at Scottish & Newcastle, one of Britain’s most iconic breweries at the time. In the 1980s, he joined Grand Metropolitan, which later merged with Guinness PLC to form Diageo, home to some of the world’s most famous spirit brands. In 1994, he joined Compass Group, managing the branded portfolios of both the consumer and client facing brands. Since then, he has worked with restaurant chains like Vapiano and Ping Pong and leading UK office and retail property developer British Land. He attributes much of his operational success to having robust systems and processes, and great teams to deliver them. Today, we talk to Ian about the role of technology in today’s food industry, how it can impact the existing workplace culture, and help retain frontline staff.
What do you think the future of the food industry looks like? Are you spotting any trends?
Today we make decisions in real time–remotely placing orders and often receiving the product within minutes . There is no turning back, our lives will continue to get faster. The real challenge will be finding a balance between human interaction and technology , determining how technological systems and processes can make our frontline staff more efficient while still providing the service that makes a good meal a great occasion. We live in a short term world now and job hopping is a fact of life. The industry will have to develop a better way to keep employees and frontline staff, and technology will play a big role in that.
Speaking of technology, frontline employees are getting more digital tools to help with tasks, such as self-service cashiers and digital monitors for meal preparation, etc. Do you think this affects the work culture in a positive or negative way?
There is a risk that you make the workplace feel very robotic with the introduction of mass technology, but it’s how you use the technology that determines its effectiveness. Every good restaurant needs to have systems and processes that work like clockwork as its backbone. This allows for the business to function consistently well, and gives the customers the same quality experience, but that doesn’t mean you remove the individual. Automate what can be automated but let’s make sure that a restaurant’s people are its lifeblood.
Companies with a large percentage of frontline employees suffer from extremely high staff turnover. Some sources say that the fast food industry turnover can be up to 300%. What should businesses focus on to change this situation?
It all comes down to the culture of the organisation: its values , behaviours and what it believes is important for its future success . If you work in an organisation where you feel lonely, not recognised and not connected to the people around you, it’s not too difficult to understand why people leave. Regardless of the task, if you are part of an engaging culture that considers your needs and desires, provides you with constant training (not only training during your induction), and gives you opportunities to develop your skills , you’d be more likely to stay and pass on the culture to the next generation. Technology has a massive role to play here, effectively being the glue that binds the organisation and its culture, whether that is through communication, simplifying and prioritising work tasks or recognising the achievements of individuals and the team .
How do you think Eko can benefit the food industry? Which features are the most essential in your opinion?
The retention of good frontline staff in the UK is a particular challenge right now because of Brexit. It has put the breaks on our industry’s ability to attract well-qualified frontline staff from other parts of the EU. And, for one reason or another, there’s not as much enthusiasm for frontline roles from the British.
The communications part of Eko is a wonderful tool to inform, recognize and reward staff, ultimately enabling organisations to build a more engaged team. Another important part of the Eko platform are the systems and process tools. People are not as productive if they haven’t been instructed clearly on what they need to do and what success looks like. Knowledge management and storage are aspects that are not as exciting to people but are no less important – if it’s too difficult or complicated to find the knowledge they need then people quite literally “move on”. Everything has to be clear and simple for the employee and, with Eko, it is. Eko can change how we develop workflow processes effectively. Once a company understands where its problems lie, there’s no doubt that Eko can fit in as a solution for them.