Tan Parsons speaks to Louise Birchall about why Birchall Foodservice is investing in fitness
BW: Why have you invested in a gym for your employees?
LB: The health and wellbeing of our employees is of huge importance to us as employers. Like most industries, foodservice can be stressful, and keeping on top of your physical and mental wellbeing is vital. We believe that if your staff are happy and healthy, then they are better focused and motivated to do their job to the best of their ability.
We are really fortunate to have a fantastic team of long-serving employees, who work hard and are dedicated to providing the best possible service to our customers. We want to offer them a great package of benefits in addition to remuneration, and helping them to improve their health and fitness at no additional cost (other than time and sweat) is a win-win all round.
BW: How have you done it?
LB: Our move to larger premises at the beginning of last year enabled us to build a staff gym, with separate male and female changing rooms and showers. Subscriptions to health clubs can cost anything up to £100 per month so not only are we helping our staff keep fit, we are also saving them money, too (not to mention saving them the journey time driving from work to the gym).
As canteen and kitchen facilities are nearby, it’s also a great opportunity for employees to socialise, have fun together and interact with people working in different areas of the business.
BW: Do you leave your staff to their own devices in the gym?
LB: We are now introducing twice-weekly workout classes in our training and exhibition centre, where an external fitness instructor will be hosting exercise classes for employees after work. We’re also looking at introducing weekly yoga classes, too, as we realise that mental wellbeing is just as important as physical health.
BW: How else do you encourage your team to stay healthy?
LB: We have close links with our local football team, Burnley FC, and its community arm, ‘Burnley FC in the Community’. They come to our site and offer staff free ‘mini MOTs’ (a 10-minute health check).
We also encourage cycling to work and have installed bike racks in our car park for people who choose to do this. Future initiatives are planned to increase the numbers cycling.
BW: Are your staff measuring their improved fitness at all?
LB: It’s always good to set targets, and some of the team have decided to take the ‘Couch to 5k’ challenge. The plan is designed to get just about everyone off their couch and, in nine weeks, be able to complete a five-kilometre run.
Our aim is to complete the challenge some time towards the end of March/April and we are currently mapping out a route from Cobalt House to our local hospice, the idea being that we make it a sponsored event.
BW: Does healthy eating come into it?
LB: As a food business, we are keen advocates of healthy eating and have installed vending machines in our staff canteen that sell fresh sandwiches, salads and pasta dishes, which are restocked every day. We also allow all employees to buy from us at base cost. This includes our fresh butchery and newly-launched fresh fruit and vegetable offering.
This initiative has unsurprisingly been warmly welcomed – it means substantial cash savings in comparison to a usual weekly supermarket shop and provides additional cash to make healthier lifestyle choices.
Louise Birchall is the sales director at award-winning family wholesaler Birchall Foodservice