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#InsightsIn5: Evolving Expectations in The Foodservice Space

Tony Johnson, Chief Experience Officer in Residence at 4xi Global Consulting & Solutions.

During the pandemic we all flexed. We all did what we had to do to keep our companies solvent and our missions intact. We all made tough decisions to reduce workforce, offerings, and footprint. We closed offices and sold off inventory. We did it knowing that we would come out on the other side and that our customers needed us to be there for them, now more than ever.

No industry was hit as hard as the contract food service industry.

Think about it, within a few weeks the colleges, stadiums, businesses, and resorts they served were shut down completely. Of course, the amazing healthcare space remained open, but the food service offerings were pared back to accommodate the urgent nature of the pandemic.

"I grew up in foodservice – it's a fundamental part of my leadership journey. I learned to take care of people in this space and have worked in almost every sector – although much of my early years were spent in Higher Education and Sports & Entertainment."

Foodservice, focused on those dining away from home while working, playing, learning, or recuperating – is an important, but underappreciated market. And one coming back from a true gut punch. It has been a rough road to get back to something more familiar, but as fall approaches many of the markets that depend on contract food service are coming back in strength.

The following points are useful even if you don’t have a contractor in the mix. You may be a hospital or university who self operates food service and wants to ensure the best hospitality and efficiency.

It’s time for your comeback. It’s time to think about what’s next.

The one thing that you can always count on is that customers, guests, consumers, employees, patients, fans, and students will continue to evolve in their expectations. Compounding this notion of a people-first approach is the changing needs of not just your external customers but your own teams - recruitment, retention and in the current climate just attracting them back to the physical workplace.

Regardless of the customer group, here are some of my musings of what's important as we think about our customer experience and how we flex, design, and deliver to create the right conditions to get the best out of your customer experience proposition:

This is nothing new, but it has been dialed up to 10+ during and as we evolve through the pandemic. This is reinforcing the need for teams to lead with empathy, understanding, and vision. Customers want to know that brands are deserving of their loyalty by getting to know them and making their experiences easy and safe. Customers still want you to solve their problems, but they also want to be sure that your values align with theirs.
Your customers and employees take a journey within your company every day. Understanding their needs, wants, and emotions from their point of view will allow you to eliminate friction, frustration, and thus reduce churn. This requires the ability to look into your organization from the vantage point of your guests and what they are trying to accomplish – and then to take action on what you discover.
You may be shrinking your real estate footprint or staying lean with your headcount – either way it changes the way you approach your amenities on property. What will the future of your dining, front desk, security, and facilities programs look like? To find success, you must remain agile to the changing demands for offerings and design.
This is the classic question. Is your space one with enough room for a contractor and do you want to cede responsibility for your employee and guest satisfaction to a company on your behalf. The argument revolves around core competency and will running auxiliary services and amenities take focus from your fundamental mission. Making this decision to keep or install a contractor (or take the journey to self-operation) is a personal one – and the stakes are incredibly high to get this right.
Many organizations parted ways with their training and development teams during the pandemic and now, as teams are coming back to work, there is a need to motivate, inspire, and train them to succeed in this new chapter. Organizations may struggle in this area, as standing up a training organization takes intentionality and organizational alignment to be successful.

The problem many are experiencing now is around finding the right talent and translating evolving customer demands into brand execution. While many are embracing a return to something more normal, the marketplace is changed forever. Now more than ever the need to understand customers, engage employees, and deliver innovative solutions will determine success or failure as the economy continues to reopen.

Much as rental car agencies sold off their fleet and are now struggling to replenish inventory, many businesses are finding that the people they released during the pandemic are harder than anticipated to replace. In many cases the value-added teams in customer experience, training, design, development, and strategy were the first to be furloughed and now those channels are the most needed to fuel success and growth.

"The one thing that many businesses are finding impactful is a fractional approach to leadership and innovation. Have you considered a consultative approach to roles such as your Customer Experience Officer (CXO), training and development, or amenities services design?"

This process allows you to bring in amazing talent at a fraction of the cost – and to mix and match solutions in new and creative ways to grow your business.

At 4xi we have created a team that is agile enough to move quickly but talented enough to drive results. We have a background both on the client side and the operations side to bring a unique perspective into the world of work, employee engagement, and strategic planning.

We are pleased to offer the following support to your business:

  • Amenity Design & Programming

  • Executive Coaching & Client Development

  • Strategic Planning & Partnerships

  • Customer Experience Strategy

  • Training & Development Deployment

  • Transition To a Self-Operated Model

We also bring a wealth of technology and innovation partners to complement our unique offerings. We believe that the best solutions take a holistic approach to success and create a seamless integration of services - at 4xi we have built a carefully curated Explorers Innovation Directory of Innovation Partners with either a product, service, innovation, or technology that really helps you drive impact to your business. Here are just some examples:

BlueRunner Solutions provides a cohesive, end-to-end employee experience for food and beverage, order pick up, wayfinding, building access, and rewards + loyalty. This will quickly become your app for everything.

MyFieldAudits brings you the peace of mind when you can’t touch your four walls. Scale personalized checklist and validation solutions across your organization with the visibility you need to drive consistent quality.

Mashgin allows your customers to self-check in the most hassle free and accurate way possible. This goes beyond labor optimization – it is about higher value tasks for employees and more accurate order completion for customers.

Winnow uses a blend of A.I. and an intuitive user interface to help you measure food waste and cut your operating costs. Food is too valuable to waste and too precious a commodity to take for granted.

Take a look at our introductory video and our approach to curating the best in-class innovations for your business.

"The strength of our collective relationships brings a wealth of talent, resources, and options to your organization."

We look forward to sharing our curated partnerships with you as together we chart a course forward in this ever-evolving marketplace.

For more information on 4xi visit

Inspiring the future, together.


Tony Johnson, Founder of Ignite Your Service Training and 4xi Customer Experience Officer in Residence, lives in Central Florida, the hospitality capital of North America. He can help your organization create customer experience strategies and training with a future looking mindset.

Tony has a background in hospitality and retail management – leading large and diverse teams to grow sales and delight customers over 2 decades. He served as Customer Experience Officer for 4 years with Aramark Corporation, leading their global CX strategy and deployment for their food and facilities businesses. Tony is now the owner of Ignite Your Service Training and Strategy, where he is proud to partner with 4xi Global Consulting as CXO and CX strategist. The power of the 4xi's collective allows Tony’s customer centric approach to seamlessly integrate and complement the host of other expertise available to help your business thrive and inspire the future of work, together.

For information on our Partnership Success program or Customer Experience strategies and solutions, contact Tony at:


4xi Global Workplace Consulting & Solutions provides a range of services to support Corporations, Service Providers, Innovators, and Accelerators to navigate the world of work. Inspiring the future of work, together.

4xi is proud to be Chair of WORKTECH Academy for North America and a member of its Leadership Advisory Board. 4xi is a Global Ambassador for WORKTECH Academy.

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