Is your marketing strategy in your employee's pocket?

In case you're wondering why I believe Social Business to be absolutely crucial to your marketing strategy, just think about this: In the very near future (think months), Social Business will just be referred to as Business, simply because everyone will be doing it as a normal course of their communication strategy.

Apple's iPhone is a great example to illustrate what I mean.

Steve Jobs was laughed at for predicting the end of physical buttons back in 2007.

When it first came out, the handset was referred to by the industry as a 'Smartphone'. As more competitors rushed to catch up, the smartphone became more universal. Along with Samsung Galaxy's, Nokias and Androids, today they are just referred to as 'phones'. (Funnily enough the old style mobiles are now called 'Feature Phones'. How ironic.)

Don't believe me?...

Today, most phones sold in the UK look like this:

So what does all this mean for your business? Well just remember that pretty much every chef, every waiter and every manager in your business has one of these in their pocket. 

As do most of your customers. 

Now THAT is a massive opportunity that Social Networking can give your business. You can't run from it, so you'd better embrace it before everyone else does.

What are you waiting for?

Don't wait for National Waiters Day: Get involved now.

“Anyone can cook and anyone can serve, but it takes time to nurture that into a talent.”

These were the words of a very smartly-attired waiter from The Landmark Hotel as he nervously addressed the gathering above a post office in Baker Street at the Continental Chef Supplies showroom for the launch of National Waiters Day. In attendance were a number of guests representing the Hospitality industry, the Springboard UK charity and some of the sponsors who have helped in getting the venture off the ground, not least our own company BaxterStorey since our Chairman Alastair Storey has personally supported the initiative from day one.

The team from The Landmark Hotel who really demonstrated what good looks like in our industry.
The brainchild of Fred Sirieix, General Manager of Galvin at Windows, on the 28th floor of of the Hilton at Park Lane, the event due to take place on Sunday 23rd of June is to raise the profile of all the brilliant Front of House people who work in Hospitality and often get forgotten in our rush to pay homage to the Celebrity Chefs gracing our screens these days. Think about it; without the waiters, the chefs would just oversee buffets!

There are lots of fun events booked all over the country in the lead up to the big day culminating in a hugely entertaining Waiters race around Brunswick Square
Matt Johnson, MD, Bunzl Catering & Hospitality Division

I went along in my capacity as a newly-minted Springboard Ambassador to support my colleagues. There was certainly great interest in our BaxterStorey version of Fred's board game 'The Art of Servicewhich we use as training tool.

It would have been great to see a few more attendees at the launch itself, but these are early days and already it has captured the collective imagination of some of the biggest names in the industry. In any case, by live-tweeting the presentations (search for #nationalwaitersday), I was able to involve lots of people who couldn't be there in person. Certainly it generated lots of replies and retweets. The magic of Twitter! 

Well done Fred on a fantastic initiative. You may be at Galvin’s, but you’ve actually galvanised the entire industry around a noble idea: that waiting tables is a profession just as much, if not more, than cooking is.
The Art of Service, the fun role playing board game by Fred Serieix

Please visit the National Waiters Day website for inspiration on putting on an event or to take part in the race itself. You might want to put a special table in your canteen or workplace cafe that offers a 'posh' service. Or if you're more upmarket, then why not invite your senior management - or chefs! - to get involved in serving some of your customers. Any activity that raises the profile of our industry is a step in the right direction.

Shared Excellency, Springboard Ambassadors

Over the last few months, I have been mulling over how best to use my talent and passion for this industry to somehow 'give something back'. After sounding out some ideas, I was delighted to get an email saying that BaxterStorey was committed to recruiting a number of Springboard Ambassadors from within our business across the UK who could support some initiatives such as National Waiters Day and spread the word about what we do best and the Hospitality sector in general. That seemed like just the ticket for me and promptly signed up for the two days training on offer.
Springboard Ambassadors: (L-R) Scott, Cynthia, Renaud, Joanna, Ewa, Hannah, Kevin, David

Finally, on Tuesday morning we arrived at the gorgeous Blue Fin Building in Southwark. I guess one of the advantages of catering for some of the most prestigious companies in the UK is that you get to visit some stunning venues for your meetings and training. It was great to catch up with my friend (and fellow alumni from the Leadership Academy) Hannah who had travelled down from Nottingham. She's now expecting a baby. Luck girl. Meeting new colleagues within the business is always special and this was no different. Renaud for example was a very suave Frenchman who coaches kid's football on the weekends and David who is a part-time Police Community Support Officer go some way to demonstrating the calibre of professionalism in this roomful of Springboard Ambassadors-in-waiting.

Eventually Eileen, our warm and friendly trainer for the next two days, began the session with two simple questions: Who is our audience? and What effectively 'float's their boat'? If you identify those two aspects at the outset, you will build a very absorbing presentation that will really engage your audience. As Springboard Ambassadors, our target audience groups could be 15 and 16-year-old school children; unemployed people at a job centre; women returning to the world of work or perhaps undergraduates in their final year of college. Each group will be looking for different motivators. For example, friendship and feeling valued will appeal to women returning to work (very much part of our ethos by the way), whereas the potential to meet or look after celebrities might appeal to school leavers. (Some might laugh at that idea, but I still find that to be a huge attraction within this industry and was very honoured to be looking after the Prime Minister a couple of weeks ago.)

During that first day, we had to make a five minute presentation to the group with Eileen giving us feedback, encouragement and guidance on areas of improvement. It was amazing to see nine totally different presentations based around just one set of audience/objectives criteria. Then we were given the dreaded homework: our task was to put together a ten minute presentation aimed at a different sector to be delivered to the group on Day Two. I don't like commuting if I can help it, but on this occasion I was happy to work on my slide deck during the two hour bus ride home and and again on the way back in the next morning. By the time I arrived back in that room, I felt I had something reasonably presentable.

One by one, my colleagues got up and made hugely compelling presentations that reminded me time and again of all the good things we do as a company and what our industry has to offer on the whole. Kevin for example described how he had considered being a van driver when he was leaving school, but his father counceled against it with the immortal phrase: You've heard people say; 'He's a great Chef', but who's ever said; 'He's a great van driver!'?

With this in mind, Kevin went on to catering college, but found he preferred the role of Waiter instead of cooking. Working his way up the career ladder, he now looks after the Executive Dining Rooms within the headquarters of a very large bank. And then Kevin said something very powerful.... "When the Chief Executive of the Bank is sitting down to lunch, he needs to present an image of responsibility and care on behalf of the Bank. Therefore the manner in which the lunch is served must reflect that. During those few minutes, the waiter presents the image the bank wants to convey to those guests. Professional and caring." Now that carries a lot of responsibility.

Eventually, we finished up our course and set off back home with aspirations of encouraging lots of new people to join our great sector. My enduring thought for anyone considering a career in Hospitality, is to remember Kevin's story. He chose to be a Waiter who delivers a great guest experience every day instead of just a van driver who simply makes deliveries. That's a journey worth taking.

If you want to get involved in volunteering as a Springboard Ambassador, contact Kerry Mabbley, Head of Ambassadors at Springboard UK on 07916 758775 or email her: kerrym@springboarduk.org.uk.