Catering | Interview

"Our world is changing"

Peter Theissen
Peter Theissen

Contract caterers are facing massive challenges in business catering. Peter Theissen, Sodexo's new Chief Operating Officer Corporate Services Germany (COO), answers FOOD SERVICE's questions.

What measures has Sodexo concentrated on in order to come out of the crisis stronger?
Peter Theissen: As one of the leading catering service providers, we want to actively shape the working world of the future. To do this, we radically align our services with the reality of people's lives - no matter when and no matter where they work. In designing smart working environments, the focus is on the end customer: What does the guest want, what are their needs and what is their path through the working day? We also align our offering with this: In the fall of 2020, Sodexo introduced a cooking bag in selected locations , which guests can purchase in the company restaurant and take home - with this, we also feed our guests on days when they are not working from the office. With Sodexo Pass, we have been living the idea for years that our clients' employees, no matter where they are, are supported by their employer. Sodexo sees itself as an innovation driver. That is why we are focusing on three topics in our implementation that are of elementary importance for customers and guests, especially in the current situation: digital innovation, sustainability and healthy nutrition.

How would you describe the character of the 2020 financial year?
As you know, we are a listed company and therefore do not publish business figures for individual markets or segments. But let me give you a few basic points from the global business results that were published at the end of October. Sodexo had a strong first half of the year, our fiscal year starts in September and ends in August. The second half of the fiscal year was then impacted by Covid-19.

How do you assess the consequences of the crisis?
The biggest impact of Corona was on the Food division. In the facilities management area, we have felt demand, for example, through disinfection cleaning, even during the crisis. Our strength, even during the crisis, is our diversified service portfolio. The central characteristic of the year was our credo: Safety always has priority. Covid-19 was a catalyst for social trends that we have seen before. Our world is changing. How we live and how we work is undergoing radical change. That's a big challenge to begin with - but it's also driving issues we've been championing for years. 2020 has shown that as a catering and FM specialist, we have the opportunity to actively shape one of the most fascinating topics of our time - what the future of the world of work will look like.

What were the biggest challenges?
This crisis is not a sprint, but a marathon. We have adapted to this with our organisational structure and our strategy. A major challenge was to analyze legal requirements, which varied from state to state, and to implement changes in the legal situation immediately in operations. In addition to all the strategic course-setting, it was also important to take our employees across Germany along for the ride. What many of our Sodexo colleagues have achieved together over the past year has impressed us immensely.

Your most important learnings from 2020?
In the long run, safety will be a topic of high priority for clients and end customers. This mission guides us in our interactions with our colleagues and our clients and shapes our vision for the future: a society in which caring and passion for the issues of our time form the basis for togetherness. We know that the challenges are great. That is precisely what drives us as a service provider. We have the experience, expertise and innovation of over 60 markets and six decades behind us. Together, we want to tackle the opportunities and challenges of our time.

Sodexo Germany and worldwide
Today, Sodexo employs around 10,800 people in Germany, serving almost 1.3 million consumers every day in around 700 establishments, including commercial enterprises, public authorities, schools, kindergartens, clinics and retirement homes. Founded by Pierre Bellon in 1966 , Sodexo provides daily services to 100 million people in 64 countries and has a total worldwide turnover of 22 billion euros. Worldwide, 420,000 employees work for the multi-service provider. Its offerings include reception, security, maintenance and cleaning services, catering, facility management, restaurant and gift vouchers as well as fuel passes for employees, home support and concierge services.