Corporate Insight
Mark Bickford, President Corporate Service Solutions
Sodexo, Inc.

How has your marketing approach evolved within the last five years?

Our approach to marketing has become much more sophisticated over the last several years. We start by understanding the localized needs of our clients and the consumers we serve in their organizations. Using our Design, Manage & Deliver process, we collaborate with our clients and cross-functional teams after conducting a great deal of research, to create an experience design road map, and then follow a rigorous process for managing and delivering on that road map. Overall, we see a lot more focus on creating customized experiences, and from a culinary perspective, much more emphasis on locally sourced, authentic, chef-curated concepts.

Certainly, technology is also playing an increasingly important role. Today, we have the opportunity to personalize and tailor our approach to marketing through the advent of smartphones, social media, and other emerging technologies to engage with our diverse consumer base in new ways. We’re also able to more effectively leverage the tremendous amount of data that flows through our systems to make more informed decisions and predictive analysis about what’s working, what’s not, and where to go next.

How has the advent of social media changed your company’s approach to marketing?

We focus a lot on communities in our business. That includes becoming part of the communities we serve, and social media certainly gives us additional channels to connect with and listen to our customers and to consumer trends overall. We create social communities to gather consumer insights and trial various concepts and strategies to understand which may perform best. We leverage social media at the corporate level as another way to engage our clients and consumers with Sodexo’s mission and values, and how we live those on a daily basis. We have several social channels we use internally as well, to foster collaboration and best practice sharing.

What do you think creates the greatest challenge to our industry?

Well there are many challenges to our industry so difficult to choose just one. That said, one challenge worth highlighting is the ongoing changes to the workplace environment. Many companies are adjusting to the expectations of the Millennial’s and soon to be generation Z with regards to flexible work schedules and ability to work remotely. This has a direct impact on overall growth in the industry as there are fewer individuals actually available during peak service times. While it may appear to have a modest impact currently, the potential for it to increase is certainly likely.

Where do you see the most opportunity to grow our industry?

I see a tremendous opportunity to grow the business through the delivery of expanded hospitality services. This is an opportunity to provide greater value to Clients by outsourcing these in house activities which will allow our Clients to focus on their core business activity. SHFM has taken a first step with the addition of the H added to the name. Myself and fellow SHFM Board Members were advocates of focusing on Hospitality as we recognized the great potential for growth in this area.

Please share a story about your early foodservice career that still serves you well today.

Having a Mentor was something I embraced early on in my career and continue to this day. One person in particular I choose as a mentor was Stephen Elmont, who founded Creative Gourmet in the 80’s. I learned a great deal from Stephen, particularly on providing excellent service, building the best teams and investing in people. These lessons continue to serve me well today and I encourage folks to consider choosing a Mentor if they do not currently have one.