‘No time for creativity’ say UK Chefs as New Study Reveals Price Hikes and Staff Shortages in Catering Firms are Worsening Due to Lack of Innovation

New industry survey reveals top concerns amongst catering staff who say happiness, training and food wastage are amongst those aspects being ignored every day

A new, independent survey of contract catering firms across the UK, has revealed the top concerns faced by operations managers, head chefs and general managers, as the sector continues to navigate a dynamic, largely unpredictable, post-pandemic world. The study, commissioned by P2P (Procure-to-Pay) catering technology firm Zupa, set out to delve deeper into the key challenges impacting day-to-day operations, as the resilience and innovation of UK catering firms is called into question. The study revealed that rising costs is the top concern for 27% of staff. Poor kitchen management was a close second (25%), a further 24% of respondents also cited lack of staff as a key concern, as well as food shortages (24%).

Perhaps more worringly, 99% of respondents say that multiple aspects of their day to day job are being overlooked due to time-consuming manual processes. Staff happiness and productivity is also suffering at the hands of poor team cohesion and outdated processes with 44% highlighting this as a major issue.  A further 40% of catering staff believe that lack of training and resource is to blame for low morale amongst their teams, while another 20% admit they are frustrated by unnecessary complexity and outdated technology, which they say is making the problems worse.

Food wastage and sustainability is also reportedly being overlooked within catering firms, due to legacy systems and high volumes of manual admin, with 40% admitting this is a real problem for the sector.

Ollie Brand, CEO at Zupa commented, “This latest survey combined with the events of the last couple of years, perhaps highlights that there is no return to the ‘old normal’. We now have a ‘new normal’ defined by unpredictability that requires aptitude, not just acceptance of uncertainty and change,” he continued, “Innovation is paramount and recognition that the right technology can help is critical to creating positive change in this sector. However, the survey does raise concerns as many are still failing to make the connection between outdated, manual processes and key operational concerns raised by their staff.”

The survey also revealed that lack of creativity and innovation is a key challenge for the industry. Lack of training, coupled with poor business vision may also be connected to issues around chef creativity as many blame lack of creativity for several of the sector’s top worries. Chef creativity in particular, was called out by over 20% of respondents who say chefs don’t have the time to innovate. Many of the respondents are chefs themelves, and when asked what they would do with more time in their working day, 65% said they would invest in the creativty of their cooking and menus.

The research also showed an acknowledgement from respondents, that technology would help their business. Just over half (51%) of respondents said they are looking for technology that is easy to use. A further 48% said that technology fits with the culture of their business and there is also enthusiasm around the prospect of introducing new technology, with 43% saying they are excited by the introduction of new technology.

Brand added, “Despite the obvious gap between outdated processes and business functions being side lined, it is clear that workers are over stretched and that this is having a knock on effect on the productivity of catering teams – and quite likely the quality of customer service. Staff attrition and low morale are endemic in this sector, and this comes at a time when the focus should be on business priorities like retention, development and improvement of customer service. Technology has the ability to transform operational performance and profitability for the better, so the time is ripe for change.”  

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