4th June 2020
Global Infusion Group are experts in planning, logistics and delivery of global catering and event services, led by Managing Director Tony Laurenson and Global Operations Director Bonnie May. GIG, Eat to the Beat, e2b, and Bonnie May Food & Events are trading divisions of Global Infusion Group, delivering catering services to film and TV productions, live events, tours, festivals, weddings, parties and corporate events and logistical support to brands.
GIG and Eat to the Beat, the catering divisions of Global Infusion Group, were due to provide catering for high-profile events worldwide including a major global games in Japan, the UK Pavilion at Expo 2020 in Dubai and Glastonbury throughout 2020. However, the global events industry was one of the first industries to be impacted by COVID-19 and GIG effectively lost £9.4 million of business in three days due to cancelled events.
In Japan alone, GIG would have had a team of 527 people working on the project, so this crisis has affected the wider supply chain and freelancers as well as the GIG team. The company already had kit in transit on shipping containers to Japan, out of reach to them for the time being – another impact on the business.
But Global Infusion Group is a Queen’s Award winner with, as one customer described, a “British Bulldog spirit”, so as soon as the crisis hit they sprang into action to pivot their activity into supporting the NHS and are now catering for 15 NHS sites across Buckinghamshire, providing over 1,000 meals a day.
Spreading their support nationally, there is also a team of 22 providing a 24/7 catering service to the Dragon’s Heart COVID-19 Hospital in Cardiff.
“The food is the easy bit,” explains Bonnie May. “The challenge has been to quickly and strategically plan how to keep the team safe, from the delivery drivers and chefs to the front-facing teams serving lunch to 500 people. We are used to problem solving and mobilising quickly, so we were 90% there on day one and have made tweaks quickly to get it 100% right.”
This adaptation includes changing the shape of the kitchen to ensure staff can keep to a 2 metre distance; medical questionnaires for all team members prior to going on site; a full cleaning schedule every two hours; having a team on standby should they need to isolate any team members and multiple hand sanitising stations.
Changes have also been made to the way dining staff serve the food, including socially-distanced dining spaces; a managed queuing system keeping staff and guests 2 metres apart; managed mealtime slots ensuring the wait time is not too long; meals individually packaged, labelled and photographed so that people can clearly see what food they are getting.
After a short period of learning and adaptation, the GIG team have their new system working well and the feedback from those working in the hospitals has been overwhelmingly positive.
Like many businesses, Global Infusion Group has had to make difficult decisions around staffing and have made a combination of redundancies and furloughing of staff. They have also applied for the government Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) and had a positive response to their application.
Tony is part of Buckinghamshire Business First’s MD Ngage Programme – a peer-group network of business leaders – and has found the support from the group invaluable as the business has navigated the new landscape. “The best phrase we have heard to encapsulate the current situation is: ‘we are all in the same storm, not in the same boat’. Every business is impacted differently. For some, business is going through the roof and for others it’s like being hit by a train. It’s useful to come together to discuss what’s happening in the business and share experiences and advice.”
What advice do they have for anyone thinking of embarking on resilience and recovery activity or repurposing their business?
“The best advice I can give is to be really honest with your staff, your clients and suppliers, especially when it comes to cashflow. Pick up the phone and be proactive, let them know you’re here to stay and what your plans are. It will pay dividends both personally and professionally.”
What are Global Infusion Group’s plans for the foreseeable future?
“With the global events market in lockdown, we’re predicting a slow return but we have the capacity to deliver much more and are keen to support the national effort and bring our expertise and kit to help those on the front line.” Through Buckinghamshire Business First’s connection with the Mutual Aid Team at Buckinghamshire Council, GIG has responded to a request to support much needed catering in the local care sector.
The Global Infusion Group HQ in Chesham, Buckinghamshire, is currently being kept operational by the senior management team. “We have a floor each!” explains Bonnie May. “We are planning to light the whole building blue to celebrate the key workers on the front line on Thursday 7th May and then red, white and blue for VE Day on Friday 8th May”.
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