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Blog : Purple Interview - Andy Chappell, Managing Director - ISS Food and Hospitality


Purple Interview - Andy Chappell, Managing Director - ISS Food and Hospitality

Emily Perry finds out what makes Andy Chappell, Managing Director at ISS Food and Hospitaity tick in this exclusive interview for Purple and Purple:online

1.       Tell us about ISS Food and Hospitality?
ISS Food and Hospitality is a single service business which sits in the house of services at ISS. We pride ourselves on our high quality catering, hospitality and restaurant services across the UK. Our difference is single service excellence; a truly personalised and flexible service which is built around the client needs.
We place a huge importance on our values – every meeting the first thing discussed are values as these set the way we do business internally and externally, it makes meetings focused and the more we reinforce the more it becomes behaviour.
2.       What was your first job and how did you become Managing Director?
At 14 I worked in a video shop. It was brilliant because we were left on our own in this huge shop. I could also watch a lot of videos and films so could recommend the best ones to our customers. Here I learnt a lot about customer service, finance, stock control and movement within a business. It was also my first introduction to cash so I probably spent most of it on Pringle jumpers (all the craze then) or going to see Aberdeen FC; my claim to fame - I went to school with Alex Ferguson’s son!
Outside of school I worked at the Marcliffe five star resort and spa doing the wine waitering and gaining operational experience. Then I moved to Aberdeen Superbowl as their supervisor for Quaser. I did such a good job that I was invited onto their trainee scheme. They didn’t realise I was just 17 though so put that on hold and encouraged me to do a tourism and leisure course at college; whilst moving me around different departments to gain wider experience.
Spending most of my younger days working in various hotels; I was given the chance to learn more about hospitality operations. This is when I knew the sector was for me. At the time my Dad knew Andrew Main (now CEO of Aramark) and so I entered contract catering. As an ambitious individual (and after being bought a shirt and tie by the business!) I quickly moved up the ranks, from pushing the tea cart, to become the youngest food service manager at just 21.
I loved Aramark and could have stayed though wanted to experience the culture of different companies. I moved to HighTable and worked on the Direct Line contract. When this business was bought by RBS, Compass came in to run the catering and I convinced them to let me be the General Manager of this site. Here I moved into operations support management and was given lots of opportunity to be promoted so quickly became Operations Manager and was awarded an Acorn Award in recognition of my success.

I always wanted to be Managing Director by 35 and so moved between roles and companies in order to achieve this goal. After time with High Table and Compass, I moved back to Aramark as their Operations Director. 18 months later I decided to take a sabbatical to travel the world which was an incredible experience. During this time, VP of Global Clients, Simon Titchener, had moved to ISS and asked if I would join him. On return I did, and the plan was in place for me to achieve my ambition. A week after I turned 35 I was made Managing Director.
3.       For the first time this year you were named number 11 in the Caterer and Hotelkeeper most influential people within contract catering, and 73rd in all of hospitality. What makes someone influential?
I was surprised at my ranking, again happy, but I wanted to know how I got on the list and I still don’t know! An influential person, to me, is someone who can shape a situation and the future; having a voice not only for their business but for the industry as a whole.
It felt great to be recognised, however more from an ISS perspective than individual – everything we do is not about me, it’s about making ISS more visible in the market. So it’s fantastic that ISS is an influential and represented business in the sector. Now we’re on it, it’s like a football league table – we want to move up! We won’t do things differently though; stay true to our values and continue to deliver high quality service and products whilst helping improve the perception of the industry as a whole.
4.       You openly promote the importance of HR within a business. Why?
Our global vision is to be the world’s greatest service organisation. To do this we need the world’s greatest people. I’m measured on the success of this vision. If I build my business around my people, making sure they are the centre of strategy and business decisions, they’ll help me achieve everything I’m expected to achieve as their leader.
5.       You’re an active Twitter user (@AndydinewithISS) – how widespread is the use of social media in your business?
This is led from the top with our CEO, Richard Sykes, a massive fan. He encourages us, as board members, to use it and for our teams to as well. Whilst it’s very much internally focused at the moment, with our @sharingplatter Twitter profile used by employees to talk, share pictures and tell us about things happening in their business, we will use this for more customer interaction in the future.
We don’t mind this being a public internal communications initiative. It creates a feel good factor amongst our people, and if our clients / competitors are interested in what we’re doing they can follow us and see all the exciting new concepts we are doing first. I can imagine in the next five years we’ll do more with social media, beyond Twitter, which will help us win contracts. Prospective clients will see an innovative, fun, open business with high levels of employee engagement and will therefore want to work with us.
6.       Can you share some of your life lessons with us?
I’ve always had a mentor and find it really useful. I’d encourage everyone, no matter what stage of the career they are at, to seek out a mentor. There’s no need to worry about asking as most potential mentors find it a compliment. When you’ve agreed what the mentoring looks like, make sure you’re both very honest and open so you can get the best from the sessions.
I’ve also often been younger than the people I manage which can sometimes cause conflict. I recognised early on that this isn’t something to worry about, instead they bring experience that I may not necessarily have. Therefore have utilised this knowledge by bringing them in on key projects – complementing the natural order which they may have grown up with and combating any difficult situations.
7.       People within the contract catering sector have won several high profile awards recently – is it time to put the industry in the spotlight?
We get frustrated with our sector being perceived as second or third tier in the hospitality industry. The question should really be ‘what is the spotlight?’ If it’s being on TV or creating celebrity chefs we’re never going to compete. If it’s being a great employer, with work-life balance and seeing your family then we’re already very much in the limelight. It’s the people who don’t understand contract catering who tar us with the ‘industrial canteen’ brush. To me, working in some of the most amazing buildings in the UK, with fantastic produce and great service; helping global business leaders make their organisations successful is just as exciting and ‘sexy’ as a new hot restaurant or a Michelin star.
7a.     The terms ‘contract catering’ and 'foods service don't really do it justice - can you suggest an alternative?
It doesn’t bother me that there isn’t a different name – it is exactly what it says on the tin. You could call it business dining however ultimately it’s down to your reception of the word. In my mind contract catering is a really positive experience, others may not perceive it as such.
7b.     How do you attract the best talent when you're competing with five star hotels and Michelin starred restaurants?
We don’t have an issue attracting front-line employees because people will chose a company based on their size, whether they are good employer and the information they gain from the website. Our challenge, as with most hospitality organisations, is chef talent. Chefs work where they have empowerment, get to cook with quality produce and equipment and can experiment. So we invest in our food development team, giving them these needs and then promoting through our marketing and social media.
Times have changed as well – contract catering is seen as an attractive option because of the hours. For this reason our industry attracts some of the most talented individuals – with the standards of food in company restaurants, particularly the executive dining, easily able to stand beside any Michelin starred chef – it’s no surprise Hayden Groves (Exec Chef, BaxterStorey) won the Chef of the Year because the standard is there. We just don’t qualify which is a huge shame; allowing highly talented chefs to go unrecognised. I’d like to see Michelin or some equivalent recognise our chefs…
8.       What are you reading at the moment?
I’m doing an MBA in facilities management so reading Kotter’s ‘Eight steps to change leadership’ which is interesting.
9.       At our recent Supper Club, you said it was time for “HR to be viewed as a profit centre and not a cost”. Why is this?
A huge part of HR is protection and keeping us legal. This therefore saves us money. So if I invest, my team can deliver better learning and development, which leads to improved service and greater client and employee retention. If you look at this department as purely someone who helps in a crisis then it’ll be a cost. If,however, you see it as a fundamental way to improve the business then it’s a profit. What is more important than looking after the people?

10.      How can HR be seen as a valuable contributor to board level conversations?
HR needs to prove you can keep us safe and save us money. Every business runs the risk of losing money from poor HR. Most critically, make sure you know how operations work so if you don’t have this experience, gain it.  Ask to be seconded into this department for six – 12 months as part of your development, or spend time with the person in charge of operations to obtain this knowledge. Next prove you know the numbers, can show your department is strategic and you know how to contribute to high-level business discussions.
11.      ISS has worked with Purple Cubed for six years, can you share your experiences?
It’s been a very good experience. We get 100% participation in appraisals so it’s obvious Talent Toolbox™ is engaging, simple to use and our people see the value. The reports are very factual and easy to understand; allowing us to shape development programmes and track our performance as an employer. All companies should use it for the sole reason that my people feel they can tell me both the good and bad which is the most important thing for me. If they can tell us we can fix, if they can’t then we won’t and we could lose some incredible talent.

12.     In the spirit of our festive challenge, what are your three achievements for 2013?

  • Our supplier exhibition. It was the first time we had all ISS businesses under one roof exhibiting to our customers and our people. Food and Hospitality was the catalyst for this and shows how integrated we are in the business.
  • We won a great new contract with Reynolds Retreat and Spa, taking us into a whole new market. It’ll be a partnership with chef, Mark Sergeant, and we’ll run the restaurant.
  • Continued the growth of the Barclays contract – moving it out of transition and into transformation; stamping ISS Food and Hospitality firmly on the contract.

Want to share your three achievements in 2013 for a chance to win a magnum of Veuve Cliquot? Simply email us with your three and the best will take home the prize.

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