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As the Director of Food at Fuller Smith & Turner, Paul Dickinson has been instrumental in establishing a food structure for the company, focusing on processes and quality within a defined framework.

Prior to joining Fuller’s, Paul was the executive chef at Restaurant Associates, which is credited for his insight into the fine dining and high-end corporate dining markets. In his current role as the Director of Food, Paul has been instrumental in investing heavily in state-of-the-art equipment for its kitchens. This includes the introduction of high-end Ambach cooking suites and the conception of the Chefs’ Guild Apprenticeship program that has produced chefs, increased standard of cooking, and contributed heavily to staff retention.

In conversation with Food and Beverages Tech Review, Paul Dickinson discusses the importance of improving the quality and efficiency of customer service and how both customer and team satisfaction is crucial for business growth.

How would you describe your journey at Fuller Smith & Turner so far?

I joined Fuller’s as Head of Food about 10 years ago. The company has a history that dates back to 1845 and is most famous as a brewer. When I joined, the company was at the cusp of change due to the transition in the economy and social life of people in the UK, which included removing smoking from bars. This social reform increased the focus on food. So it was a monster of a task as a young chef to follow the brief to make Fuller’s as famous for its food as it was for its beer, without an ex-chef’s involvement or a previously set path.

We created our own supply chain and products from scratch with the best of British food. We also spent a lot of money on investing in our kitchens. I always believed in having the perfect working environment and the right tools to do the job.

Ten years down the line, we are now a big company with pubs, inns, and hotels across the southern part of the UK with an established supply chain. Our supply chain is such that we provide a window for our staff to plan their work. Typically, that involves not delivering fresh food every day. So if you order food on a Thursday, you get it delivered on a Saturday. In doing so, our staff can start their work picturing their day. They might be tired while picking up an order at night, while working with a clear picture of the day brings out better outcomes.

It is very important to make sure the team has the right working environment to best serve the customers. Ingredients, food, drinks, crockery and machines are all part of this and instrumental for the business. We also have an extended camaraderie with all our suppliers. All the work from a good space will subsequently ensure the best experiences for the customers as well.

Please shed some light on some of the recent initiatives you’ve undertaken.

All our team project initiatives go back to improving the standards we have set for ourselves – standards of cleanliness, standards of our teams, standards of our supply chain, and our standards as leaders. So upping our game when it comes to our own merit is one of our key focuses.

Secondly, we value social responsibility and pay attention to issues like mental health – among both our employees and consumers – particularly during difficult times such as this current pandemic. So ensuring we are constantly on point for our clients is how we fulfill our social obligation. Be it the supply chain, sales, bookings, or issues with the equipment, we make sure we respond to it fast, which in turn helps the business deliver.

In addition to delivering food and beverage online, we now have QR codes for paying bills so that the customer can leave when they finish dining without any delay. With the existing COVID-phobia, some people are scared to go out, and some might want social interaction after being in lockdown for an extended period of time. Without removing customer engagement or service, the digital solution gives customers a choice on how they wish to interact.

Lastly, it’s the eye for efficiency. We add value to our customer by adding value to our teammates. We work hard to ensure we are open to change and having honest conversations within the team. It all comes down to getting your house in order and focusing internally. As shareholders, the more we inspire and be clear for our teams, the more they will grow with us and build strong grounds of trust.

Any piece of advice that you'd like to impart to aspiring professionals looking to embark on similar lines of your service based on your experience in this field?

The first piece of advice is to never stop learning. You should never assume that what you learned in the past will get you through tomorrow. You need to be willing to learn and accept feedback, pay more attention, and rather than complaining, make an action or change a behavior. If you can take a step in that direction, people will follow.

It’s essential to keep in mind that you have many people watching you if you are a leader. So if you are starting your journey, observe the people who lead you and where they might get it wrong, learn from it, see it as an opportunity and then rise up the ladder. That’s all I did in my career. Whenever someone didn't do it quite the right way, I made sure I did.

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