We thought we’d shine our spotlight on one of our newest Fellows; Mark Taylor, Healthcare Sector Lead at Premier Foods.
Tell us more about your current role and workplace
My current role is that of Healthcare Sector Lead for Premier Foods. I am responsible for all areas of Healthcare including the NHS in England, Wales and Scotland and a raft of National Care Home Providers, combined with Local Authorities who have Care Homes and Community Meal operations.
During lockdown you became a Fellow of the IoH, how did this feel?
I was so surprised when I heard about this! Deeply humbled and proud to be recognised in this way. I have been in the Hospitality Industry in various guises, since I started at Westminster College in Vincent Square many many years ago…
What role do you think you can have as a Fellow in helping others in the hospitality industry?
Starting with my formal Chef Training at Westminster College, through to my current role, I think my experiences are across many areas of the industry. Ranging from hotels, through to the Public Sector, catering recruitment, operational management and food manufacturing. But over the past 28 years, I’ve worked mainly in the area of sales and relationship management combined with people management and development. Therefore I certainly have a set of different experiences, which I hope means I can provide some learnings, share some best practise examples and more importantly advice, which I think is one of the main roles of being a Fellow, especially to newer members and people wanting a career in our industry.
You specialise in the health care sector and last year you won a Public Sector Catering Award for you work, tell us about some of the initiatives you have worked on?
I was incredibly honoured to win the Public Sector Catering Award last year. It was a complete shock, but to be nominated and voted for by my peers meant so much to me. I passionately believe in the care of the elderly and people in hospital and ensuring that they eat well and healthily and that the sector isn’t considered a forgotten part of the industry. I, together with Premier Foods worked on providing catering solutions for people with Dysphagia… a medical condition that prevents the patient from being able to swallow solid food. Sadly the options available to them previously were very limited and mainly consisted of a ‘normal’ meal being liquidised and served in a bowl. I also helped to create the McDougalls Young Baking Team of the Year, which started life as a ‘one off’ competition aimed at school children, encouraging them to start baking and to introduce them to teamwork and working together.
How has it felt to work in the foodservice sector, especially healthcare, during such challenging times?
Healthcare has been challenging during this period. At the beginning, it was all about hospitals and ensuring everything was done to maintain stock levels and keeping patients & staff fed. The focus then shifted to the Care Home Sector, which really suffered for lots of reasons; lockdown with the lack of family interaction and also the speed of coronavirus travelling through care homes led to a perfect storm of infections… I had some very raw conversations with customers who told me about the amount of deaths within their groups they were having, sometimes on a daily basis, which is never great to hear.
What positives, if any, do you think the challenges of COVID-19 will have on the hospitality industry?
COVID-19 could change the focus on traditional roles within the industry. One area will and should benefit from this are our colleagues in housekeeping teams up and down the country. Often seen as not ‘high profile’, the people who work in this area have been crucial in maintaining COVID-safe standards Going forward. Surely the advantage of people working cross-functionally versus traditional single roles, will be a thing of the past… with obvious exceptions of course. This should make for a more flexible and multi-skilled workforce.
Did you always want to work in hospitality when you were growing up?
Yes, I always wanted to be a Chef for as long as I can remember. I always loved food and the cooking process, so it was a natural fit. Through a lot of hard work and catering experiences during holidays etc, I was accepted into Westminster to do the Westminster College Diploma in Professional French Cuisine three-year course – I was over the moon and loved every minute of it… and from there on, my love for this industry began.
What do you love most about the hospitality industry?
The people, the buzz and the camaraderie this industry has. I like the fact you can go for months and then bump into people and it’s like you only saw them the day before! It’s a dynamic sector to work in – it’s great hearing about the new trends in food and new types of hotel operations. My son started his career in the sector and I met my wife working in the sector, so it’s absolutely ‘in the blood’. Cut me in half and I have hospitality written through the middle of me…
What has been the most memorable day in your career for you?
For me one of the most memorable days, other than the birth of my kids, was the year I won the Public Sector Catering Award and then a few months later, won the National Association of Care Catering’s (NACC) Pam Rhodes Outstanding Achievement Award – being recognised by my industry peers; friends and colleagues for a job I love doing was just the best feeling ever!
What is the best piece of advice you have given one of your team?
Be yourself and challenge the status quo… not accepting that ‘just because it’s always been done like that’ is right. Even more so now, everyone has to work differently and therefore it’s a great time and opportunity to be more productive; more challenging and ultimately more successful.
How has being a member of the Institute of Hospitality helped your career?
I think Institute of Hospitality membership has reawakened my senses more within the industry. Listening to some of the superb IoH webinars and engaging with some new contacts I have made has really turned back on some of the creativity and passion for other areas outside of my day job. I was recently asked to take part in a Post-COVID careers webinar by the Institute of Hospitality’s Sussex Branch which was a really incredible experience and I got to meet some amazing hospitality professionals. That’s what the Institute of Hospitality means to me.