Case study published by The Sustainable Restaurant Association September, 2023.
Founded in 2002, Lexington Catering was motivated by a desire to do things differently. Dedicated to creating a culture of innovation paired with a self-described ‘people-focused team’, their Mission Statement is simple: to work with super people providing great food and service, having fun, and enjoying success. Lexington Catering has since become a multi award-winning business with more than 1,000 people on board. We caught up with Lexington’s Leadership team to talk about their people-first ethos and how this translates into a thriving business.
Sustainability matters at Lexington, with a deep understanding of the role that foodservice businesses can play in the fight against the climate crisis. “As a food company, we play a critical role in implementing the sustainability agenda and influencing our stakeholders to do the same,” says Matt Wood. “The global food system is responsible for up to 37% of our annual emissions. To reduce the industry’s footprint, it is critical that we source the food we provide to customers in a responsible way.”
The team works to address environmental challenges on a daily basis and raises awareness by communicating with their customers. “One of our company’s values is to protect the planet and the community we serve,” says Matt. “Our responsibility begins with carefully selecting our suppliers and empowering our customers to make more sustainable choices, which is key to the longevity of our business and the resources of our planet.”
The team at Lexington believes in empowering staff through education. “Educating and engaging our team members is both the biggest challenge and the biggest opportunity we have,” says Chiara Gianusso. By making sure every department is invested in the same goal – tackling the climate crisis – and giving them the tools they need to make informed decisions, they create a “ripple effect” of climate-aware action that inspires innovation. “Over time, this challenges our status quo and produces new solutions that benefit all of our stakeholders without harming our planet.”
Tasked with sharing knowledge around sustainability, a network of over 154 ‘Green Force Champions’ stretches across all departments and contracts in the company. “Our Champions do essential work in guiding our customers toward more sustainable choices and solutions, educating them about the impact our food has on the planet’s resources. This includes promoting lower-carbon meals through menu labelling and being transparent about our supply chain.” Meanwhile, back of house, Lexington chefs are involved in the United Nations Chefs Manifesto initiative, promoting the Beans is How campaign and putting climate-positive beans, peas and other legumes on menus at all their locations. “We’re looking forward to expanding our connections with this network, establishing new partnerships that empower our chefs to be leaders in sustainable hospitality.”
“We place a huge emphasis on the fair treatment of our staff, considering them the very heart of our business,” says Laura. At the core of this philosophy is their mission statement: their belief in ‘super people providing great food and service, having fun and enjoying success’. To bring this vision to life, they consistently invest in creating “a nurturing culture and a supportive environment, where every member of our team can not only exist, but thrive and grow to reach the highest standards of excellence.”
One way they achieve this is through employee recognition programmes such as the annual ‘Star Awards’ and ‘Lex Live Our Values’ campaign. “These events are dedicated to celebrating success and exceptional talent across the business,” says Katharine Lewis, “highlighting employees who are shown to demonstrate Lexington values in an outstanding way.” A Long-Term Service Award celebrates team members’ long service milestones, encouraging loyalty to colleagues, clients and customers. Teams are also regularly invited to take part in company-wide competitions, including the annual Lex Casual Dining Competition, where they celebrate incredible food and the innovation, creativity and teamwork demonstrated by employees.
“Our ‘People Promise’ is based on the principle that we value our employees like we value our customers,” says Katharine. This promise aims to ensure that team members feel appreciated, supported and fulfilled in their roles. “We aspire to do this by offering roles to support a colleague’s way of life, standing by our employees’ life challenges, rewarding a job well done, and creating avenues for growth and progression.”
Career development is a key consideration, too. The company shows a dedication to fostering long-term careers through initiatives like the Lexington apprenticeship and graduate schemes. “We believe strongly in ensuring that our employees not only feel valued but are also motivated to excel, with opportunities for growth at every stage of their journey with us,” says Katharine. “This commitment to their development is not only a reflection of our values but also an investment in the personal fulfilment of our team members and the continued success of our company.”
“The Food Made Good Standard is a well-regarded accreditation in our industry,” says Sean Ritson, explaining that they viewed taking the Standard as a necessary part of staying competitive. “It inspires trust in our customers and stakeholders, and the report provides us with clear action points for where we can improve. In the complex landscape of sustainability and ESG, having this clear direction and support is important for our success.”
The team found the process of taking the Standard a rewarding one. Working through our 10 key focus areas – including ‘Treat Staff Fairly’ – and gathering the required evidence provided an opportunity to reflect on everything they’ve achieved. “It made us appreciate how far we’ve come,” says Sean, “which was immensely satisfying.”
Sean says the team would highly recommend that other food businesses sign up for the Standard; they’ve found it incredibly valuable for measuring their actions against industry standards and keeping their sustainability journey on track. “It really encourages you to think outside the box,” he says, “leading to innovative ideas like our zero-waste food brand, Trashed, which has become a hit among our clients and showcases our commitment to sustainability across the business.”
In wrapping up our discussion, Matt returns to the company’s commitment to its people, underscoring the enormous part this has played in Lexington’s success. “Without this emphasis, our teams would not feel as rewarded, would not be as loyal and would not fully embody our Lexington values – particularly the essence of positivity that we aim to bring to our client sites. We recognise that a happy, well-supported and rewarded team translates to better service, better relationships with our clients, happier working environments and ultimately, a more successful business all round.”