Using a strong set of guiding principles and with a focus on real business change made, Headland Consultancy delivered a stand-out campaign. The team demonstrated solid preparatory work on identifying relevant stakeholders and researching baselines, allowing them to set informed and clear objectives. This was an accomplished response by a very capable communications team, with careful ‘before and after’ measurement demonstrating powerful results.

Mark of Excellence:

  • Royal National Lifeboat Institution
    RNLI battles media storm about its international work

The RNLI demonstrated the benefits of effective preparedness, together with the willingness and ability to flex as a situation changes. They illustrated that, by having clearly defined principles, processes, and messaging, as well as committed members of the team, it is possible to turn around a reputational and commercial risk to the benefit of the important work of the charity.

Finalists:

  • Golin and Lidl Romania
    The Angry Mob
  • Newcastle Hospitals, Hull Hospitals, Yorkshire Ambulance Service, and NHS England and NHS Improvement
    First UK cases of Coronavirus
  • The Hyde Group
    Hyde’s recladding project at Gosport Towers
  • University of Glasgow
    Slavery, Abolition and the University of Glasgow

Winner entry:

Explanation of issue/crisis, objectives and budget:

Just Eat is the market-leading food delivery platform in the UK. It does not own the restaurants that deliver through its platform, but was facing an increasing challenge when it came to some restaurant partners failing to adhere to good food safety practices.

In 2018-early 2019, there was a sharp rise in the level of scrutiny applied to food businesses around hygiene. Just Eat was a focus, with three major investigative news reports on the food hygiene standards of restaurants that deliver through the platform, including an undercover BBC News investigation and an in-depth look at the issue by the Panorama programme.

Just Eat needed to take decisive action. Our objectives were to use Just Eat’s scale to help drive up standards across the whole of the takeaway sector, and to communicate this action effectively to restaurants, customers, industry stakeholders and media to improve Just Eat’s own reputation in this space.

Budget: Agency fees (£20k); consumer research (£1,100).

Research, planning and strategy:

The comms team worked with stakeholders across the business as well as external stakeholders such as the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH), to plan our reputation-led approach. We also consulted consumers, by running a survey to assess how their choice of where to eat is affected by food hygiene ratings. For example, 18% of consumers said that it was important to know a restaurant’s hygiene score before purchasing food.

The whole strategy was driven by communications, based on the following principles:

  1. We couldn’t continue to respond from a defensive position; we pushed the business to understand that good communications on this issue had to be driven by good business practice
  2. Actions we took had to be meaningful in the eyes of customers
  3. We needed to commit to long-term commitments and not just short-term initiatives or trials. But we also needed to create solutions which would be practical to implement for Just Eat’s restaurant partners, most of which are small independent businesses
  4. This was a well-scrutinised subject – so any business action had to be tangible, sustainable and newsworthy if it is to highlight Just Eat’s industry-leading approach and move the story on.

Delivery of tactics, creativity and innovation:

The comms team then led the implementation and communication of an evolving programme of work to improve food safety across the takeaway sector. These included:

  • Becoming the first food delivery platform to display Food Hygiene Ratings of all restaurants both on its website and in-app, starting with a trial in Northern Ireland, followed by a UK-wide roll-out. This required a significant resource investment in order to manage the huge amounts of data involved and update Just Eat’s tech accordingly, but the comms team helped the business realise the significant benefit for customers, restaurants and therefore the business’ reputation
  • Funding an improvement programme for restaurants with a rating of 2 or lower
  • Removing all zero-rated restaurants from the platform, and introducing a minimum standard of 3 stars for new sign-ups
  • An overall investment from Just Eat in this food safety programme of £1million.

At every stage, we ensured all stakeholders were fully informed on the changes. This included:

  • Media – We communicated the changes to a broad set of media. Given the BBC’s close scrutiny of food safety, we briefed them regularly on the changes we were making
  • Stakeholders – We simultaneously briefed industry bodies, MPs and academics who closely follow the issue
  • Restaurant partners – We created a programme of bespoke email comms for all partners about what we were doing, how it would affect them specifically and how to sign up for the improvement programme. We then made follow-up calls to restaurants with a rating of less than 3 stars encouraging them to sign up. Just Eat’s local territory managers continue to provide support throughout the process
  • Customers – We communicated to customers through CRM, allowing us to target a large number of consumers directly
  • Employees – We provided focused training for specific teams and broader updates through our dedicated employee intranet.

Demonstrate how negative impacts were avoided, positives achieved and improvements made:

Just Eat’s approach changed attitudes both within the business and across the takeaway industry, benefitting both its restaurant partners and customers. Nearly 1,000 restaurants have improved their scores since May 2019, with 43% of restaurants listed on the platform now boasting a 5-star rating for hygiene or equivalent – the highest that can be achieved.

We avoided placing unwanted strain on restaurants by supporting the training financially, as well as consulting closely with the FSA throughout the process to ensure our work was in-keeping with their standards, securing supportive quotes for our announcements from Heather Hancock, the FSA Chair, as well as Anne Godfrey, CEO of CIEH. We are currently working with the FSA to explore how we can work together to further improve standards across the sector.

Measurement, evaluation and impact:

We worked with the Reputation Institute to track stakeholder and consumer perceptions of Just Eat, including around the issue of food safety. One such response was that Just Eat are “definitely leading the world” in this area.

We also measure success through stakeholder sentiment more generally. At the Public Accounts Committee evidence session on food safety in October, Just Eat was positively mentioned twice by FSA CEO Emily Miles, who outlined how Just Eat voluntarily lists food hygiene ratings on the platform and referenced the business’ investment in food hygiene improvement.

We generated widespread positive media coverage over a six-month period, in national, regional and trade media. Our announcements were covered in publications including The Sun, The Times, Guardian and Daily Mail, with headlines praising Just Eat’s “war on standards” and its action as a “ratings first”, and were featured on BBC television and radio broadcasts.

We are constantly evaluating our work, considering both the standards of the takeaway sector and how the work is impacting Just Eat’s reputation. We know there is still much more to be done, but feel the work we have undertaken so far has been a significant step in driving up standards across the takeaway industry.