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Fuelling Productivity: The Paul Cowie Q&A

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Fuelling Productivity: The Paul Cowie Q&A

Fuelling Productivity: The Paul Cowie Q&A
November 22
12:51 2022

A senior consultant at Litmus Partnership, one of the country’s leading catering and facilities management consultancies, Paul Cowie has helped several organisations to achieve their strategic goals across their foodservice and hospitality services, including cleaning, security and reception.

With the education sector a principal target since launching over three decades ago, Litmus continues to work with independent schools, colleges and universities, as well as state schools and academies across the UK. caught a quick Q&A with Paul in his new role…

What services does Litmus provide?

Our core consultancy services include catering and foodservice, “hard” FM (asset management, air conditioning, fire safety systems, etc.), “soft” FM (cleaning and security), and retail (both in-house and third party food and beverage). We provide consultants and support teams who specialise in a particular area across a range of disciplines, working with organisations who operate solely in-house as well as those that outsource to FM providers. Occasionally, it’s a combination of the two.

It’s been a turbulent few years and the sector is now in the middle of a cost crisis. What would you advise to help organisations to stabilise costs during this time?

It’s difficult at the moment for virtually every business, in every sector. We’ve all got through the pandemic, which was complicated enough, and now energy prices, food costs and labour issues are blighting so many organisations.

There are actions that can taken, however. First, a review of the facilities. Covid forced many businesses to change the way their space was used and, for many, occupancy levels and space utilisation hasn’t returned to what it was. Understanding how your buildings are now used will then inform how you operationally run to save time, money and resource.

Reviewing all the assets within your organisation is also something that should be looked at. It is generally three to five times more expensive to repair equipment such as fridges, freezers, air conditioning units and heating systems that fail without warning than it is to maintain or make a planned repair of the same equipment. Outdated equipment will also likely cost more to run.

Information such as mapping where the assets are located, when they were installed, if all regulatory checks are up-to-date and if any servicing is due can all be recorded digitally, along with repair dates. That way, operators can keep track of maintenance and prolong the lifespan of the equipment.

Re-tendering catering services is complicated. What are the three key considerations of the process?

  1. Where possible, involving an experienced external consultant will ensure a smooth tendering journey, as well as saving time and money. A crucial partner for any sector – particularly the public sector – a catering consultant will know the specific requirements of a given industry.
  2. Seek the input of stakeholders from the outset, and incorporate their ideas and feedback into the specification. Having to alter the brief midway through will help no one.
  3. Use technology to manage tender responses and streamline the decision-making process. Drawing comparisons between operators isn’t always easy, and digitising the process can make it far simpler. We work from an interactive dashboard that presents findings, interprets the numbers and provides a detailed analysis in simple terms.

Litmus recently sponsored the inaugural Scottish School Food Awards. What was the attraction of being involved?

Our heritage in the education sector goes back decades. It’s one of the first sectors we started in and we’ve provided FM and catering consultancy to schools for over 30 years. The impact that good nutrition and quality food can have on pupils and productivity in general is huge. We work with both independent and state schools on their food provision to help them achieve best value. This doesn’t necessarily mean the best price – although cost is always a significant consideration – it’s more about identifying genuine value across costs, quality, service levels and delivery.

What’s in store for the sector in 2023?

Looking at employee retention – either through upskilling or reviewing packages – will be essential in keeping hold of staff. It has also become apparent that the cost of produce and goods will remain high for some time, so procurement and suppliers will require constant review in order to ensure optimum value for money.

Meanwhile, we predict the use of tech will continue to grow. There is continual development in products that can help your buildings and assets to be greener, your catering services to be more streamlined and your employees to be more efficient.

Paul Cowie is a senior consultant with Litmus Partnership, one of the UK’s leading catering and facilities management consultancies with over three decades’ experience in a range of sectors, including hospitality and education.

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Catering Scotland

Catering Scotland

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