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It’s time to talk about … Mental Health in the food service sector - first published in Food Service in Action -Feb 2017 

Seeing Prince Harry, Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge all smiling as they raced around the London Olympic Park track in February 2017, brings a smile to my face too. Upon reading the numerous news articles there is a real sense of purpose to this PR opportunity, where they are working to highlight the need to talk about mental health and remove any stigma attached; I find this initiative both commendable and also very necessary. 

I am really passionate about our key people objective at ISS, which is to provide a safe and healthy work environment for everyone. This is based on the ISS Values and reflects our Leadership Principles – to look after both the physical and mental well-being of everyone in our employment. In its simplest form, this is about ensuring all of our people are returned happy and safe to their family at the end of their working day.

On Thursday 2nd February 2017, we all had a chance to play a role in looking out for our colleagues’ mental health. Time to Change, an organisation that focuses on supporting people with mental illness, encourages people who have mental health problems to discuss them openly without fear, during a day entitled #time to talk.

Research shows that conversations about mental health change lives.  The #timetotalk Day initiative encourages us all to speak up about mental illness and to highlight any worries or concerns people may have. Organisations across the UK were invited to take part- as did we - revealing some very brave and personal stories.

It is so often the case that too many people with mental health problems are made to feel isolated, ashamed and worthless by other people’s reactions, and yet mental health issues affect 1 in 4 people. As the statistic shows, any one of us, or our families, can be impacted by mental health issues at any time – many of us probably know of someone but just don’t realise the difficulties they’re experiencing right now. So at ISS, we also started a conversation to support each other as colleagues and friends.  One of the very open and honest conversations was with Paul, one of our valued chefs and you can read his story in his words in the case study (below). 

Talking about mental health doesn’t need to be difficult. It can be as simple as making time to have a cuppa, or go for a walk with someone and listen to how they feel; or picking up the phone to a colleague you haven’t spoken to for a while, or thanking someone for something they have done to make them feel valued. 

Being open about mental health and ready to listen can make a positive difference to someone’s life and I believe it is something that we can all do. The food service sector is renowned for rallying to the support of others and in such a fast paced sector, sometimes it is good to encourage a slow-down of pace as we connect people. You may be the listener or the talker; being receptive to both is important as it can really make a difference to someone’s life.

This is what the three royals running and Time to Talk Day was all about – giving us all the chance to talk and listen about mental health, whilst removing the stigma attached. 

Meet Paul, a Chef working for ISS Food and Hospitality - in his own words:

“I made the decision to tell people about my mental health problems at the start of my job with ISS. I hadn’t told people before when I felt down and I know it has cost me a lot of jobs and I didn’t want that to happen in this job.

I was worried people would run screaming from me in the opposite direction if I was open about how I was feeling, but I realise now how wrong I was.
Once I told one person at work, the first question was to ask me ‘how does it really affect you’ and once I explained how being down affects me and my work, we agreed a plan to combat the feeling.

Paul chef

This one conversation has had a massive impact on my whole life. It’s the best thing I have ever done. When I feel down now, we make adjustments to my work, anything from a cup of tea and a chat with someone, to just a walk outside for 5 minutes, it all helps clear my head.

My advice to anyone feeling low is to speak up. I know it’s not easy to open up. You don’t have to give someone your life story, just describe what’s happening now over a cup of tea with someone you can trust - this can release you from the feelings you may have. I have been so surprised with everyone’s positive reaction, there has not been one negative one. People understand once they know and when they understand they support you in more ways than you can imagine. It was my idea to raise the focus on #timetotalk day and the next thing I know, you are all reading about it, that’s because we are making it okay to break the stigma and support anyone who needs the chance to talk’”.

The perspective from the ISS Food and Hospitality team:

“Paul is a fantastic chef and we all love having him as part of the team. We knew there was something bothering him and it was a relief when he told us because now we can help him, which we are all happy to do’.

"It's #timetotalk because if you say something, you realise how many people around you haven't, and needed to."



April 13, 2016 16:30

Stephanie Hamilton, Managing Director for ISS Food & Hospitality, reveals why the future is bright for her team

There has been a real sea change in perceptions over the last two years and now there is a belief that FM companies offer the best in foodservice

Foodservice has consistently evolved year on year. A few years ago, few believed that multi-service companies – ISS included – could offer a depth and quality of foodservice that is equal to the more long-established companies. I was never of that mindset. After all, any service delivery is made up of the sum of its parts, from strategic intent, people capability, an eye on the detail, financial stability, a credible offer that a team and clients believe in.

Sometimes, the only people left to convince is the competition. It has taken time but there has been a genuine shift in perceptions over the last two years alone so that today we know we do not face the barriers that we used to.

Many will tell you how hard it can be to change a perception. The only way one can create real change is through doggedly pursuing excellence, through people training and consistently communicating to the team of where we are and what we are capable of, raising standards and delivering beyond expectation – making the case with every meal served. Over the last few years, we have made the case and today we are seen as foodservice caterers that are skilled and expert in our discipline, and moreover we are told that we are ‘doing things differently’.

Why the sea change in perceptions? It is due to a range of factors – our passion for foodservice, our people. We recruit a ‘type of person’ heavy on the can-do attitude and attention to detail, our service levels, the support of ISS towards foodservice and we also like to carry on regardless of the external perception – ‘let them talk, whilst we do’.

It has also taken time for many to understand ISS. Few understood that ISS is a major international player but we are. We possess real depth and history to our story. ISS was founded in Copenhagen in 1901, based on a security service provision – yes, the first misconception busted, we didn’t start as a cleaning company at all! Not that there is anything wrong with providing cleaning. After all we are expected to be single service excellence in our behaviours and then when a client chooses to multiply their service provision into ISS, they are guaranteed ‘best in class’ no matter which point the customer touches. We have grown to become one of the world’s leading facility services companies with revenues amounting to DKK 74.1 billion, have been voted number 1 outsourcing provider over the past year three times. In the UK alone, we employ approximately 48,500 employees who are dedicated to delivering high quality support services. We are committed to doing business the right way. We are actively involved in corporate responsibility and sustainability initiatives and similarly, we strive to ensure that our people are paid a full and fair Living Wage.

It is our belief in service delivery that has allowed us to become world class. It has taken time for others to see that we are, but this is now happening. Whatever anyone says, I know that ISS will go the extra mile for our people and for our customers. Our executive team has a passion for food that I have rarely seen in other companies. It has been this that has led the change in perception.

I am only interested in the substance of what we do. We believe in the concept of a “team” and we live to that goal. If one looks at our leadership team, one will see a united group that all share the same values and goals.

When I joined the company, I realised that ISS was the right fit for me – I was going to be given more creative freedom with the food development team than at any other company I had worked with before, I would be able to spend most of my times at sites developing a relationship with our customers and employees and finally I saw an opportunity to leave a positive legacy within the organisation. There was still a shift in perception that needed to occur regarding IFM companies and I would like to think we have led the change in perception.

The real challenge was to prove that Integrated Facilities Management companies did not view foodservice as a side business. Let me tell you, I am nobody’s ‘bit on the side’. I am very proud of my business and my team as I know that we are making a real difference – in many ways this will be our legacy. From creating the ISS Academy of Excellence with Leeds City College, which supports young people through a vocational qualification, to a Chef’s diploma for our own team, we have placed every member of our management team on a leadership development programme, mentoring sessions, award wins – a Food Service Catey, a Cost Sector Catering Award, Hospitality Assured Award, MIDAS Menu Innovation Award and to my own Senior Executive of the Year Award the list is endless. For me, the awards are a morale boost for the team, they give that external accreditation. I have previously underestimated how much that meant to them. It feels good to work here and even better when someone’s hard work is recognised.

We are passionate about food experiences; we have all come from single-service catering companies into FM so that we can continue working on our passions and be able to provide our clients additional services if that is their need. Recent contract gains have allowed us to demonstrate our culinary skill to a wider audience. In the end, the client’s satisfaction is what determines our success. If the clients know what a quality company we are, our team can take confidence in that.”

Our journey is only partly achieved. Changing both perception and the reality is ongoing and ever present. We are still gaining momentum. If you haven’t felt the change or seen it coming then do your research because I have done mine. I know what the perception is of our business and we are enjoying the moment.


On the 15th of May we had our spring and summer white collection launch upon the Sunborn London, it was a huge success and showed off some of the talented chefs we have within ISS Food & Hospitality.

The event was attended by current clients, consultants some potential clients, ISS UK board members and  industry and media journalists.

9 of the featured 12 chefs from the Spring and Summer collections were cooking that evening and showcased brilliant fine dining dishes that where both seasonal and executed perfectly.

  • Alan Sosa - Cured sea bass, pickled summer vegetables and horseradish snow
    Lemon meringue posset, lemon sherbet, mint and beetroot meringue
  • Pawel Motzek - Braised white pork belly, carrot puree, chorizo savoy and cider jus
  • Elliot Faulkner – Squid ink arancini with scallops, parmesan foam and pea
  • Matt Petit - Halibut and octopus Carpaccio, orange dressing, caper and fennel salad
    Tomato gazpacho mousse
  • Daniel O’Connell – Rib eye of beef, oxtail croquette, sweet potato and girolles
  • Didier Desmedt - Chargrilled chicory, asparagus, poached quail egg and parmesan tuille
  • Ian Parker -Glazed duck breast, plum compote, braised salsify and black sesame sponge
  • Bart Waszkiewicz -Blue berry cremeaux, lemon posset, orange jelly and yoghurt sponge
  • Frederico Barreto- Crisp and pickled radish, herb cream and black olive soil
    Chocolate and hazelnut croquant, crisp cherry and pastry cone

I have to say that I personally think these are two of my favourite books so far, and each of the chefs within the books cooked and produced some fantastic seasonal dishes and without their skills, the white collection would not be possible.

Simon Price has taken on the mantle of developing the White collection this year, and I certainly think he has done an amazing job and pushed it on to the next level.
As you know Steve Read is chief photographer and food stylist on this project and Steve’s attention to detail has without doubt helped create two of the best collections so far.

"Pulling together The White Collection is a task I relish, and I’m always amazed at the creative ways in which the chefs deliver such perfect, seasonal and vibrant dishes.
Once again the team has wowed us with their personal take on great Spring and Summer food.
Bringing the summer White Collection to life would not be possible without the hard work and dedication of these guys, so well done and thank you.
I believe with this pool of creative talent and the honest food beliefs we have at ISS, it makes for a powerful combination that is world class.
The White Collection books are evidence of that and all involved should be truly proud of the outcome"
Simon Price – Development chef

ISS create great environments and food solutions that improve the quality of our clients and customers lives

Getting Ready for the gig worker by Stephanie Hamilton, managing director, ISS Food & Hospitality

Generation Z refers to those born in the late 90’s and ‘noughties’. They are the ‘swipe, don’t type’ technology users, they find the 3D screens in the film ‘Minority Report’ dated and their idea of work and the workplace is likely to be very different to that of current workers. Are we in FM ready to work with this new group of workers?

Current research suggests that this new generation will relate to work – and their workspace –  in an entirely different manner. Theirs will be the ‘Gig Economy’.

In this Gig Economy model, workers will go from one ‘work performance’ to another and will aim for a more project-based approach where their personal and professional lives are more interlocked. They share information and experiences more readily, are likely to be more entrepreneurial, and upskill to enable themselves to gain the experience to move from project to project; and potentially from employer to employer.

All the while, this new model of worker will be in constant contact (via social media) with their diverse networks which will allow them to tap into upcoming jobs/projects, interests, trends and ideas. Because of this ‘Gigging’, they’re more likely to move from one workspace to another, yet still be able to work and rotate across various teams.

Virtual teams already exhibit some aspects of Gigging, especially if they work across local, regional and international borders. We already see some elements of this in our own company at ISS where our Integrated Teams pool ideas and excellence from across the business. For example, we recently held a sustainable food forum with clients, partners and suppliers to look at how we can better avoid surplus food creation.  Why? To help all of us learn better ways to win the hearts of minds of future workers and employees who will want to (and have to) live in a more sustainable way.

In my role in Food & Hospitality, I already have customers who are likely to share a picture and comment about their meal before it hits the table! So to keep up with this, our people keep step, sharing pictures and descriptions across social media. It seems like a small thing, but in the bigger context, it helps us to keep in touch with our clients, our customers and our employees who create the dishes, and to make sure we’re listening to each other.

Looking ahead, we’ll need to constantly innovate and find ways to make food service and how we communicate around it smarter. Because for the next generation, what we consider smarter is likely to be the norm.

Generation Z is coming up fast and we need to be ready for this ‘swipe, don’t type’ group.

April 09, 2014 10:00

Passing on the knowledge you receive through mentoring is vital, says ISS Food and Hospitality's Stephanie Hamilton...

I have mentored for many years, both in an informal sense, quietly supporting, encouraging, and entering into discourse with people as they start their careers; and more formally by creating mentor programmes and spending time with people in the workplace.

I viewed my mentoring as a one-on-one experience, the relationship between myself and my mentee being private- allowing us the opportunity to learn from each other and develop our skills and knowledge.

At the Women 1st Conference last year, there were several presenters discussing mentoring programmes and one speaker, Vanessa Vallely, really moved me to take action. Vanessa’s approach to mentoring was to make sure whoever is being mentored ensures they are mentoring someone too, passing the advice along and facilitating a culture of shared learning.

It was something I set upon right away. After years of mentoring, I had never considered passing on the knowledge in this way and I was really excited at the prospect. We are only in the early days of this approach, but I hope as we progress we will see a change at many levels of our mentoring group. Looking ahead, this approach will be a consistent feature .

There are many facets to mentoring; in my experience, the aspect that arises constantly, particularly in younger people, is the question of how to become assertive without it turning into aggression. It’s such a difficult area on which to mentor, as people often try and mimic others’ behaviour within the workplace. In the process, they frequently start to lose their persona - or direction.

At the Women 1st workshops and conferences, this topic of maintaining true to oneself usually arises - in coffee breaks and in the main sessions. I have had various interesting discussions with likeminded women who have all confirmed the same thing. Had they known at the age of 18 – 22 what they know now (in their 30s and 40s) they most certainly would have a word with their younger selves . They would tell ‘early me’ to go to work with their true persona, and be their own person; that there is no need to mimic the behaviour of others, which can be exhausting.

So often we see people trying to walk with the pack instead of standing out from the crowd. I try to install a core of self-belief within my team members, and especially my mentee. They should remember - above all else - the power they possess. At ISS, we call it ‘the power of the human touch’.

If you have the same self-doubt, I love the lyrics to ROAR - Katy Perry’s song. I think it sums up the topic nicely:

"I used to bite my tongue and hold my breath,

"Scared to rock the boat and make a mess,

"So I sat quietly, agreed politely,

"I guess that I forgot I had a choice,

"I let you push me past the breaking point,

"I stood for nothing, so I fell for everything."


Stephanie Hamilton is executive director of operations at ISS Food and Hospitality.

This blog was originally published on you can read it here


November 14, 2013 10:30

With equality between men and women at board level still a long way off, are quotas a necessary evil? Stephanie Hamilton shares her views.

I am not a ‘sit on the fence’ kind of person. My opinions are always one way or the other. White wine and never red. ‘Team Cheese,’ rather than ‘Team Dessert’.

I love raw celery, but hate it cooked. Women in business quotas? I am ‘no’ on quotas. At least, I was….

I have worked in senior teams for a long time; mostly male, but not really to the point that I have noticed. I currently work on a board with a 70-30 male-female mix, which is the perfect balance and we were all selected on merit. I think we are a dynamic, high-performing team that works really well, so no quotas required, thank you very much!

And then I attended the Women 1st Conference.

I sat and listened to women describe their experiences of working on boards and heard the different perspectives; not just women, men too (Women 1st encourages men to join the group too, it’s fabulous!). I thought about the broad reach of businesses and how some people, both male and female, tend to recruit their mirror image. If, in some cases, the gender balance is 100% one way – male or female, then the status quo will never change. It bothered me. I spent my train journey home thinking about it.

I arrived home and my five-year-old daughter was sitting playing with Lego. So I kicked off my high heels, sat on the floor and joined in. ‘Daddy’ was the chef and, when I asked why, she replied: “because boys are chefs and girls are servers”. Hmmm.

I work in the hospitality industry and I just cannot believe my daughter would think that to be a fact. I asked some other questions: astronaut: man or woman? Person who delivers post: man or woman? School teacher, head teacher, ambulance driver? It was amazing that my bossy little five-year-old already had formed ideas about what gender these roles should be.

As I sat and spoke to her, sharing stories that these jobs could be anyone’s, it was clear to see that opinions actually start quite early. If, at your first school, your head teacher is male and your teacher is female, from early on the boss is male. If your head teacher is female and your teacher is male, the same notion of ‘normal’ starts.

This gave me more to think about regarding quotas. It is already well-reported within the press and lots of research studies that show that, if we continue at our current pace, we will fall short of the targets set by the Lord Davies review. I can sit well in my position and think “it doesn’t really affect me,” but I know there are lots of women and men out there that it does affect.

Also, I found myself looking at my five-year-old and wondering if quotas would be such a bad thing? If our generation ‘took one for the team’, the current slow rate of change would be broken and things might suddenly change at an amazing rate and pace.

I don’t know the answer, just as I still don’t like cooked celery or red wine, but I am determined that for one five-year-old, there will be no ‘blue’ or ‘pink’ jobs. We like purple in our house and, as the quota debate continues, I have found myself edging closer to the fence, to peer over and see what the other side is doing. I hope to see you there!

Stephanie Hamilton is executive director of operations at ISS Food and Hospitality.

This blog was originally published on - you can read it here


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