For the past decade Francois Offshore Catering has delivered quality cuisine and dedicated housekeeping services on offshore/renewables installations and shipping vessels around the world. Originally headquartered in Singapore, the company opened a new base in Aberdeen Westhill Business Park in 2020, expanding their service network while others retracted.
Establishing a presence in an already competitive field is never easy, and the ensuing CV19 pandemic did little to help matters, but it is a mission that general manager Hugh Rapson, a veteran of the offshore catering industry for over 20 years, has relished.
The interview below with Hugh focuses on what the last two years have been like, and what the future is cooking for Francois Offshore catering.
“Welcome Hugh. The last two years have certainly been a rollercoaster for most within the offshore industry, and indeed wider world, so how has it been for you and Francois Offshore Catering?
“We have certainly had our challenges; not being able to meet people face to face the most obvious, however my colleagues and I have never wavered from our focus, determination or approach throughout, which in itself has created a source of inspiration for us. As a subsidiary of Northern Marine Group and in turn Stena, I was very confident before I joined that there would be high levels of competence, industry knowledge and a positive culture – and I was pleased to discover that is indeed the case.
“However, my main reason for joining was because Francois Offshore Catering is a brand that offers something different to the status quo, and that remains even more true in the current climate where clients have increased responsibility to care for their crews, while being forced to evaluate all their costs, yet still maintain a high standard of operations onboard.
“You mention that you see Francois Offshore Catering as offering something different from other service providers, in what way is that true?”
“Offshore Catering and Housekeeping services can often be seen as service that needs to be delivered, rather than a pivotal influencer in the day-to-day operations onboard an asset.
“The crews we are catering for and indeed look after, are away from home for extended periods of time, often weeks or months and we see it as our role, not job, to ensure these crews are as healthy, happy and productive as possible.
“To set us apart from our competitors we have worked extremely hard on delivering a quality service that is underpinned by a wider holistic consideration of all the factors that contribute to offshore workers’ health and wellbeing. That level of service remains cost-efficient for the client.
“Our ethos is ‘Restore | Rest | Ready’ ensures staff are restored through high quality, healthy and balanced meals they are rested in comfortable and clean accommodation and are consequently always ready for a hard day’s work ahead of them.
“We achieve this by employing experienced and creative chefs who we actively encourage to display their full range of talents through the production of meals that wouldn’t look out of place in a restaurant.
“I’d invite anyone who is sceptical of this claim to speak to any of our existing clients, or even visit our website or YouTube Channel where we have created films to show just what we mean.”
“And in what other ways do you see yourself as different, how do you ensure this quality of service is delivered on the ground on a consistent basis?”
“I suppose the most obvious way we differ from competitors is our ability to source and supply both personnel and provisions to all locations throughout the world, through our wide-reaching sister companies Francois Marine & Offshore and Northern Marine Manning Services.
“Last year we had our own highly trained people - who all live and breathe our ethos – serving crews in Antarctica, the Tropics and the North Sea.
“Most, if not all of our competitors will supply staff and provisions, but it is mainly through third party suppliers, and that can often lead to a disconnect in the process.
“Through our in-house supply we can make sure both staff and supplies are of the highest standards, and the subsequent service delivery matches.
“Crucial to the whole process is our operations team, overseeing all aspects of delivery onboard all of our assets. In people like Iain Mearns, Stewart Farmerey and Kevin ???, I believe we have one of the most experienced teams in the sector; people who understand all aspects of catering and service delivery, but crucially within the unique environments we work within and their incumbent challenges.
“As a subsidiary of Northern Marine Group and in turn Stena, we are in a unique position of being big enough to deliver at scale if required, yet also able to deliver a focused, tailored service that are as carefully crafted as our cuisine.”
“We suspect one of the biggest challenges you face is convincing companies who have been using the same supplier for many years to switch to a newer, and often unknown brand. How do you overcome such reservations?”
“Although we may be an unknown brand to some, we have been in operation for more than 10 years, with a history of supplying major brands such as Stena Drilling and ???. The placement of our headquarters in Aberdeen may be new, but our global service provision is most certainly not.
We relish the opportunity to demonstrate our track record of successful change management to potential new clients which allays any perceived fears they may have had. However, we understand the proof is not in the pitch, but in the pudding – pun intended!
“We provide a single dedicated point of contact for Project and Operations, pulling from the experienced team highlighted before who have each worked in this sector for many years.
“Our focus is not on scale, but rather on the provision of high-quality service delivery to selected clients who share our common goals and are aligned with our core values. Companies who take seriously the delivery of these services, who understand that catering and morale go hand-in-hand, and the resultant benefit they receive from a happy workforce.”
“Thank you for your time today, and we suppose an appropriate question to ask to end the interview would be ‘Where do you see Francois Offshore Catering in another two years’ time?’”
“Building on the solid foundations we have already established in the UK, and welcoming both new clients and members of an expanding team.
“Sustainability is a key focus for both us and clients, and I hope to see the fruition of exciting plans we have in place to increase our supply chain of sustainably sourced provisions, and to demonstrate the growth of produce on site at many installations.”