Set the right impression with your foodservice shop front

First impressions count - stand out within education, healthcare and workplace settings

Catering for the public sector is all about providing balanced, nutritious and varied food, ensuring mealtimes are a pleasure for consumers including patients in healthcare facilities as well as children and younger adults in schools and universities. However, following COVID-19, it is important now more than ever that caterers stay ahead of their game and create a good impression for customers, not only through their food offering.

Impressions count for everything. Whether your consumer is a patient or staff member visiting your catering operation in a healthcare setting or even a staff member grabbing a coffee from their workplace cafe or deli, each and every one of your customers demand satisfaction the minute they walk through your door. As operators, it is your role to satisfy all of these demands.

A few suggestions on setting the right impression within education, healthcare and workplace settings.

Education

Creating the right kind of environment is key. Is it fun and interactive? Take a step back and put yourself in your audience’s shoes. Look at where children are having their mealtimes and their surroundings. Is it the best it could be? Think carefully about the use of colour in canteens. Why not go for bold, vibrant colours to reflect the bright serving dishes you have on your menu? Live theatre kitchens also work well to enhance the overall dining experience.

Healthcare

Ensure your catering team are really expanding their efforts to aid health and safety. Insist on strict cleaning procedures and make sure cleanliness and food safety is at the very top of your priority list as this is a bigger issue now for consumers than it ever has been.

Workplace

Particularly workplace settings offering a more ‘premium’ experience, remember to make an impression with the way in which your establishment is presented. The decor and ambience set the tone, but also think about any outside hanging baskets and furniture, as well as lighting and music that you play. It all adds to the experience and creates that first impression. Take a moment and consider what the customer experience is likely to be with the aesthetics of your business. Workplaces operating a more café or deli-style service must think about how they can adapt to offer a more flexible and inspiring eating space. This can be through its design, food and service.

Here are some other key bits of advice for you to consider.

Give your online presence a spring clean

Whether you are an approved supplier to the NHS or a catering chef manager at a local school, your online presence is so important. For many, online marketing might seem like a daunting exercise that requires a lot of time, expertise and investment. Often businesses will over complicate online tactics by focusing on too many avenues. Keep it simple.

Don’t over-complicate it - it should be easy to navigate and give an instant feel of your unique selling point to help customers make a decision on whether to engage with you. Ensure you give your customers a next step to take by including an option to ‘make an enquiry’ or ‘sign up to the newsletter’ to make the process as smooth and easy as possible.

Be social

Try to keep an active, lively and engaged presence on your social media accounts, making sure you stay on-brand. Is your business easily accessible? Can a customer easily find you online? You must stay relevant on as many social media platforms as you can. Why not post recipes on your website or offer up different menu solutions?

Keep your consumers in tune with your latest menu offerings. Using school catering as a prime example, if your menus change each term, for instance, make sure you are communicating this to students and parents via your website and the likes of Twitter and Facebook. Perhaps you already provide fun and educational cookery classes for pupils. If so, make sure parents are made aware of these. Post the recipes online so that they can even be tried at home. All of these things can make a big impression.

Have fun with food

Whatever the catering operation, it’s important to always have fun when serving up food. Yes, menus, particularly in hospitals and schools need to be healthy and nutritious, but they can also be exciting. Why not freshen things up with new and different choices? Introduce a takeaway theme or do something special for Easter/Summer. You could even run cultural events such as Mexican or Greek days.

It’s all for a good cause

Getting involved in a local charity is good for any business and can really help you stand out from the crowd. It can increase your reach to a wider audience as well as boost morale.  Perhaps a percentage of every tab on a certain day could go to the charity of your choice. Why not, it’s all for a good cause, after all!