In 2015, Elior Group Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Philippe Salle created the Group’s culinary and technological innovation program, Life4 (Let’s Imagine Future Experiences). In the same year, the in-house innovation competition, Life4 Challenge, was launched, and on March 20, 2017, the Life4 Start-up Program was inaugurated in Paris.
The aim of the Group’s international Life4 Start-up Program is to seek out and promote forward-looking projects which could become innovations that impact catering activities. By providing mentoring support or acquiring a stake in start-ups, Elior Group will enable them to experiment their innovations’ POC in Group restaurants and measure their feasibility on a large scale.
For Cyril Capliez, Elior Group Senior Vice-President of in charge of innovation, strategy and development, "supporting start-ups contributes to the development of an ecosystem that will benefit all players involved. Tradition may well be the DNA of the catering business, but innovation is its future."
“We must continue to move forward, adapt our offerings to changing needs and digitalize our business to be in line with society and client expectations. For this, we have to reinvent our business and team up with these new players so that we can ensure our transformation. With its Life 4 innovation strategy, Elior Group is equipping itself with all the means it needs to invent the catering model of the future”, declared Philippe Salle, Elior Group Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.
 Proof of Concept
The Life4 Start-up Program - To step up the Group's innovation strategy and invent the catering model of the future
Within the framework of the Life4 Start-up Program, Elior Group brought together 40 start-ups from around the world on March 20, 2017 to take part in its co-construction, collaboration and/or investment program designed to step up the Group's innovation strategy. Coming from some of the 15 countries where Elior Group is currently present, as well as from Israel, the 40 start-ups were selected on the basis of two themes:
- The catering model of the future
The activities of these start-ups are all related to the Group's businesses: catering and all associated activities and services (digitalization of points of sale, enhanced consumer experience, robotization, etc.). The start-ups were selected for the quality and feasibility of their projects and their teams, with the aim to forging partnerships and implementing innovative projects in the Group's restaurants and points of sale.
“The aim of Elior Group is to promote the innovations of this ecosystem which will help shape the catering model of the future, to forge partnerships and to meet the challenges in the Group's markets in the healthcare, corporate, education, services and travel and leisure sectors," stressed Cyril Capliez.
Relationships with start-ups are built up in three stages:
- Identifying and detecting talent, through a network and a dedicated organization. For example, Elior Group has created a specific in-house monitoring unit to identify promising start-ups: within the framework of the Life4 Start-up Program, 24,000 projects were identified, 130 selected and 40 retained for the March 20, 2017 presentation. Elior Group is also contributing to the co-creation of platforms and/or incubators. In this respect, the Group is partnering Reimagine Food in Spain and the economic development and innovation agency, Paris&Co (which co-founded Smartfood Paris, and, in 2017 became a partner of TechCare Paris), as well as the Hacking de l’Hôtel de ville project in Paris.
- Providing start-ups with a playing field so that they can try out their innovations in Group restaurants. Elior Group is currently working with the following European start-ups: GoCater (la Belle Assiette), FoodMeUp, Touch and Play, Never Eat Alone, Rose & Mary, Vitalista, Foodles and PopChef. By providing mentoring support or acquiring a stake in these start-ups, Elior Group enables them to try out their innovations in Group restaurants and establishments and measure their feasibility in the real world. Supporting start-ups contributes to the development of an ecosystem that will benefit all players involved.
- Accompanying start-ups in their worldwide development. The aim of the international Life4 Start-up Program is to seek out and promote forward-looking projects which could become innovations that impact catering businesses.
The Life4 Challenge - Encourage local initiatives in each county/market and boost innovation
Elior Group has also created the Life4 Challenge, an in-house innovation competition aimed at breaking down the silo working approach, as well as bringing together cultures, professions and generations, and pointing them in a common direction. Everything that has been, or will be, invented within the corporate structure can be applied to the company and to other companies.
In 2016, the first Life4 Challenge was won by the Elior UK team for its innovative BOX’D CHEF service dedicated to guests in the corporate catering segment. BOX’D CHEF is a take-out meal kit that enables guests to prepare meals at home in less than 30 minutes. This flexible solution is a cheap and inventive alternative to existing take-out offerings and ensures client and guest loyalty.
400 employees participated in the first year: 145 projects were pre-selected, 42 received professional support, 12 finalists were invited to submit their project to Elior Group management, and one team elected winner. In 2016, the BOX’D CHEF team won one year of support to finance, develop and test its project and to deploy it on site. The Life4 Challenge made it possible to uncover other innovative projects that will fuel the innovation plans for all of the Group's markets, help strengthen ties between employees and promote international synergies.