Believe it. Live it! Working with mutual accountability by Fauzia Fareed & Sara Babar

Over the past three years, BMMI’s Food Production Unit (FPU) has experienced significant changes, including innovative additions to its product offering, an expansion of its customer base and a thriving, mutually accountable working culture.

These changes were spearheaded by Fauzia Fareed, FPU Manager, and Sara Babar, Food Development Specialist, along with a dedicated team of employees. The journey towards reinventing the FPU required a multifaceted approach and a consistent commitment towards sustainable improvements.

From the very beginning, the FPU has been a unique trendsetter in its field in Bahrain, said Fauzia. “The FPU has always had an unwavering commitment towards quality, which to us means providing a consistent product every single day. In fact, we were the first kitchen in Bahrain to be certified in the Integrated Management System (IMS) which includes four international standards for food safety, quality, occupational health and safety and the environment,” she said.

While running the business side of the FPU, ensuring smooth operations and maintaining BMMI’s IMS standards, Fauzia realised that what was needed to help revolutionise the FPU was someone to focus on product development.  Sara was recruited around three years ago to help with this very purpose. Interestingly enough, Sara’s background was actually in Human Resources, but she had a strong passion for food and was looking for a career where her interests and skills could be best utilised.

The FPU was the perfect fit for Sara. “What I love about our food is that it is all completely man made. I am very proud of the fact that our kitchen uses zero preservatives and that we make everything fresh and to taste, every single day. Everything listed in the ingredients is what you get, nothing else is added and I can truly say that today I have a newfound respect for production,” Sara said.

With business savvy, a commitment to international standards, passion for good food, an understanding of worldwide food trends and the belief in a dynamic, happy working culture, Fauzia and Sara worked together to take the FPU to the next level.

One of their first steps was cultivating a culture of increased accountability and engagement. Originally, employees were assigned to one station, with one task. For example, an employee would just be assigned to working in the sandwiches section, with no role in the production of other foods. This had created the consequence of employees focused solely on the success of the product they were working on. But Fauzia and Sara soon realised the importance of creating a more collaborative environment, where duties were not segregated but shared. They began by ensuring that every employee was cross-trained in the entire production line of the FPU, ensuring that they were all multi-skilled and multi-tasked. Furthermore, they began rotating employees between stations, ensuring that each employee had experience in creating each product that was included in the FPU’s offering.

“It was a struggle at first because it was definitely a learning curve,” said Sara. “But I talked to the team about the importance of broadening their horizon and how beneficial it would be for them if they have the skills to work with various products.”

The step also helped create an awareness that the overall success of FPU is every employee’s goal, said Fauzia. “The team began to realise that every product going out is a reflection of their success, especially when they began having these diverse responsibilities. If even one product isn’t up to standard that means the FPU and the whole team didn’t deliver,” she added. The team now works under a simple motto: if you wouldn’t feed it to your own family, then you don’t send it out.

The team also began going on restaurant visits together, an initiative that Sara began to help the team become more familiar with the food market and how some of the best restaurants in the country prepare and present their food. This also had the added benefit of helping the team bond and get to know each other in a setting outside the FPU. Additionally, a buddy system that saw more seasoned employees help guide new joiners helped further cement more personal and professional relationships across the FPU.

These changes were supported by what Sara describes as a hard and fast rule, “a bad attitude is not allowed in the kitchen, if someone finishes their work early, they will go to another station and help out. It is truly about supporting each other and if you don’t give each person the respect they deserve than the FPU is not the right place for you,” she said. Additionally, employees were encouraged to always speak up and contribute their thoughts on operations and product development. “At the end of the day, we may say or want to do a lot of things,” said Fauzia, “but the team are the ones that are on the floor doing the actual work to produce these products, and their thoughts are crucial to our success.”

These initiatives came together to invigorate the team, giving them ownership and accountability towards all products coming out of the FPU. With only fresh ingredients, and everything created from scratch, the team works in round-the-clock shifts, ensuring that everything is up to their high standards. “Sometimes when we get big orders, team members decide to go in early or stay longer, to ensure everything is perfect, and they make those decisions themselves because they feel pride in the products they produce,” said Fauzia. “The team’s happiness and satisfaction are very important, I believe that if you are unhappy, especially when making food, it will show and your food will talk for you. The quality of our food is a testament to the fact that our employees are passionate about what they do.”

The changes across the past few years have resulted in new and innovative products, as well as an increase in the FPU’s clientele. To ensure that the FPU remains ahead of the curve, Sara is constantly researching trends, reading food blogs, following social media, listening to customers’ feedback and even recently became a Food Revolution Ambassador in association with Jamie Oliver’s initiative. Over the past three years, the FPU has added healthier options, seasonal specials and ‘heat & eat’ product lines. Furthermore, they go above and beyond to guarantee the satisfaction of their customers, even creating customised menus and helping ensure the best set up of their products for their clientele which includes coffee shops, schools, student lounges, Alosra supermarket and catering for events.  Their range and reach are always expanding, and the team continues to work tirelessly to ensure their overall purpose: providing quality products and exceptional service to all customers, and living a fair, collaborative, happy and innovative working culture.