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  • 5 Minutes With… Neil Hargreaves, Care Homes Divisional Manager, apetito

    In the latest instalment of our care industry executive interview series, we spoke to Neil Hargreaves, Care Homes Divisional Manager at apetito, about his company, industry opportunities, the challenges posed by COVID-19 and new technology…

    Tell us about your company, products and services?

    Readers may well be familiar with apetito, as the UK’s leading food producer within the care homes sector as well as healthcare and social care markets. We work in partnership with over 600 care homes offering quality assured meals that have been specially developed by our inhouse team of chefs and ensure a great dining experience for residents.  An extensive range of over 200 main meals and over 50 desserts means we can help our care home partners cater for wide-ranging dietary needs and preferences including solutions in specialist nutrition and allergen intolerances, whilst accommodating different cultures and cuisines.

    And our customer service support is renowned – the team here is passionate about helping our partners create the best possible dining experience for their residents. It’s not just about providing food …. we want to bring the joy back to dining for those who may have lost that simple pleasure in life. For example, we are particularly proud of our Queens Award in Innovation for our pioneering texture modified meals, specially designed for people with swallowing difficulties.

    What have been the biggest challenges the Care industry has faced over the past 12 months?

    It will come as no surprise that the biggest challenge by far, has been Covid-19. It has been a difficult time for everyone who works in the industry and at apetito we have wanted to show our support and appreciation to the care providers for all the incredible work they have done, and continue to do, throughout the pandemic. It will be a challenge for the Care Home sector to get back to where it was before the pandemic but with so many amazing people working in the industry, we know it will get there.

    And what have been the biggest opportunities?

    Covid-19 has given us the opportunity to think differently to overcome the challenges posed by not being able to visit our care home partners and those wanting to start working with us. Out of adversity comes opportunity, and over the past three months everyone has seen different ways of working, increased efficiencies and deployment of technology platforms. An example of this is that we have developed a safe way to provide our tasting sessions to care homes. Our mobile kitchen, the apetiser, has been created so that we can still offer tasting sessions to care homes from the safety of their car park. Staff and residents can come to the serving hatch and try a range of our meals and the Managers can discuss with our team, how we can support their care homes catering.

    What is the biggest priority for the Care industry in 2020?

    Safety of residents and workers has been the number one priority. For care homes this will include ensuring that the catering provider they are partnered with, can offer quality assured meals with continuity of supply and stringent best working practices from top to bottom. For us that has meant contactless deliveries, remote service mobilisations and fast adaptation in how we work to ensure that our service remains seamless, quality assured, and always safe.

    What are the main trends you are expecting to see in the market in 2020?

    We are seeing some significant challenges within the care homes market, which are being exacerbated by Covid-19. A trend over several years has been the reduction in the number of chefs available for work in carehomes, making it increasingly more challenging to find qualified catering staff to deliver resident meals with the care, safety and precision required.

    Secondly, texture modified meals remain a significant priority for homes following the changes to IDDSI in April 2019. IDDSI led to an increased clarity and quantifiable measurement of Dysphagia meals and care homes are finding it challenging, with the above-mentioned supply of qualified staff a reason, to safely cater for those living with swallowing difficulties.

    What technology is going to have the biggest impact on the market this coming year?

    For the care home market, the rise in remote service solutions is going to have an impact. We have always worked very closely with our customers and relationships are crucial. However, the reality is that it is now more difficult to meet 1-2-1 with no let-up in the foreseeable future. Service platforms will be key to maintaining relationships and digital content is going to become more and more important.

    In 2025 we’ll all be talking about…?

    How the world changed overnight in 2020…


    Stuart O'Brien

    All stories by: Stuart O'Brien

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