Eurest’s culinary director Ryan Holmes admits he can’t wait to get in front of customers properly again following a year in which he’s grown more accustomed to showcasing its food offers from behind a computer screen than a stove.
The company provides catering and cafe services to dozens of workplaces around the UK, but pitching for new contracts and articulating its ethos of nutritious and sustainably sourced food remotely has required a different set of skills.
“When you’re doing presentations for new business, I always think that people buy into you and what you’re about first and foremost. Now we’re having to do presentations online and it’s a very different mantra — you’ve got to get our food across with your personality and talk about our philosophies from a screen and that’s difficult.
“We’ve had to adjust and I think we’ve got better and better at doing that and approaching it in different ways as we’ve done more of these presentations. But we’re itching to get back to seeing people face-to-face, and we’ll do that when it’s safe,” he said.
One of the big highlights for Eurest during a challenging year for the industry has been the launch of ‘Kitchen Club’ — an idea that had been put in motion prior to Covid-19.
The initiative gives employees at several major UK firms access to virtual cooking lessons from professional chefs and will take place physically once conditions allow.
According to a survey of nearly 14,000 European workers, commissioned by Eurest, having a workplace restaurant is considered the third most important workplace benefit, while having an employee assistance or wellness programme is the fifth most important.
The addition of Kitchen Club to the Eurest portfolio is a unique way to support these findings, even for those not able to currently attend their workplace and workplace restaurant. Kitchen Club teaches everything from knife skills to nutrition, with Eurest’s culinary director Ryan Holmes along with other company chefs and nutritionists leading employees through recipes virtually. The events can be held either live, or as a pre-recorded session and act as an excellent morale booster.
Holmes says: “Connecting people through food is incredibly fulfilling and exciting, especially with the UK’s ongoing Covid-19 restrictions making it harder for people to see each other and find entertaining ways to connect, engage and learn new skills.
“Employees genuinely enjoy learning about nutrition and improving their culinary skills. This also leads to healthier workplaces, where people are more aware of the nutritional content of what they’re eating. For employers it’s another way of showing employees they’ve considered their needs and want to support their wellbeing.”
Holmes says that Eurest’s food philosophy is key to what it is trying to achieve in the B&I sector and Kitchen Club isn’t simply a device created for lockdown.
“It’s definitely here to stay,” he says. “It’s not going anywhere, it’s going to be its own brand and it’s got its own look and feel. The tone of voice is really important. We want to sit up there with some of the really good cookery schools in the UK. The likes of Waitrose and Jamie Oliver do a really good job in that space and we want this to continue and grow. I’m confident about it and proud of where the idea came from and where we’ve got it.”