I was knocked off my feet and ended up in bed for the awards, which was super disappointing as I had assisted with some of the judging and I knew all those that had been shortlisted were incredibly worthy, not to mention the winners who have demonstrated excellence in both the quality of what they deliver across the public sector, but also the passion, zeal and commitment that they give each and every day to ensure our nations are well fed and healthy, often in the face of great adversity.
Congratulations to you all and especially to the NACC Chair, Sue Cawthray, who was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award. I honestly cannot think of a more worthy winner. Sue does an amazing job at the NACC as well as her full-time day job and she is certainly to be commended (one of my foodie heroes). Congratulations Sue.
I was also meant to be chairing a meeting of a PSC Alliance working group before the awards dinner to look at one of the actions from Public Sector Catering ‘most influential’ debate at the Houses of Parliament in February. Luckily, Jayne Jones, our Alliance deputy chair, was able to jump in and take the reins. There were great discussions around recruitment and retention, and some actions for us to take in lobbying the government for more help over the chronic shortage of workers. The group had some very positive ideas that will allow us to share best practice and to incentivise folk to make the leap of faith into a career within public food.
Following a week in bed, I improved enough to be able to attend the Hospital Caterers Association forum in Birmingham. The event was superb, and was certainly a tonic for me with so much learning and sharing of best practice. I am always blown away by the synergies across the public sector. We all face very similar issues and our customers - be that in a hospital bed, in school, university or college or a in care home - have very similar requirements. We don’t have to let the setting change how we deal with them.
A colleague of mine used to say ‘TLC’ - Think Like a Customer. It’s amazing how, when you convert the person in front of you into that ‘customer’ - your attitude changes and you can influence their experience for the better.
We heard at the forum how the little things can change the acceptance of food, one example really stuck with me and it is so simple. Cut toast on the diagonal. When you see a piece of toast cut like that it transforms such a simple thing from being a basic slice of bread into food made with a little bit of love.
I have mentioned the similarities across the public sector, so that leads me to how easily skills can be transferable across the hospitality industry. Some years ago TUCO developed an interactive careers roadmap that allowed anyone to see how they could grow and develop their career. I am hopeful we can share that across the whole of the public sector and let our amazing colleagues feed their passion, seeing them grow and develop to become the next generation of leaders.
Our sector offers so many rewards, not least a great work-life balance that just can’t be found in other parts of hospitality. This industry is amazing and anything we can do to celebrate that and encourage people to join should be supported and endorsed by all of us.