60 Seconds With

“Strive to do what you love and success will follow” – 60 seconds with Deirdre O’Neill, Future Food Offer Director at Compass Group Ireland

By Business & Finance
20 April 2021
Deirdre O'Neill, Compass Ireland Group
Pictured: Deirdre O’Neill, Future Food Offer Director, Compass Group Ireland

Deirdre O’Neill is Future Food Offer Director at foodservices provider, Compass Group Ireland. Food services, and particularly workplace catering, have been badly effected by the pandemic. Compass Group has plans to direct the business recovery and even before Covid19 became an issue, the group was working on a centralised production kitchen to cater for the shift to hybrid and home working.

What was your first job?

From a young age I loved to watch my mum at work and would help her out.  She ran a successful bridal and debs dress business and a guest house.  I still don’t know how she managed to do it all; running two businesses with three kids? An inspiring female role model, personally and in business.

What would you regard as your greatest achievement to date?

Hands down, that would be my daughter Ava, who turns 3 in June (Mini me!)

Professionally, I recently led the development, launch and mobilisation of the Copper Pan Kitchen brand, a new production kitchen for fresh delivered meals.  The concept is a first for our industry, a solution for the new hybrid-working situation companies face, that is capable of scaling up and down with demand and delivering food experiences to both employees’ homes and offices.

During the height of the pandemic, as part of the development process, we also managed to feed 8,000 of the most vulnerable people within our community using our Copper Pan Kitchen set-up. 

In three words or less, how do you define success?

Love your job. A tough one to achieve, but that makes it worth it.  Strive to do what you love and success will follow.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Embrace the journey. This links into how I define success.  Results are great, but they’re often fleeting and short lived.  Doing what you love allows you to take joy from the little things, day in, day out. 

How do you motivate yourself and your staff?

I’m all about empowerment.  Give teams the tools and space they need to get the work done. Next, celebrate the mini achievements along the way.  I never leave it on the long-finger to recognise people’s contributions. 

Working as a collective is also a big part of our culture in Compass group; communicating and visualising a common goal is a powerful motivator.  

Personally, I relish the prospect of bringing new ideas to life.  I’m fortunate to be in a business that allows me to build on those lightbulb moments and see them through to reality. 

How do you relax?

No matter what the weather, you’ll find me out for a walk. I’m lucky to have some of the best parks on my doorstep; St.Enda’s and Marlay and Bushy Parks.  It helps me clear my head and recognise how I’m feeling in that moment. 

Saying that, you really can’t beat a sunny getaway and a great book for total relaxation! 

What’s your motto? 

I don’t live by strict mottos as such, but this Tina Fey line sums up my approach to work and life well: “Whatever the problem, be part of the solution.  Don’t just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles!”

What are your aspirations for the future of the business?

I see Compass Ireland being a big influencer when it comes to corporates winning the war on talent. We work with some incredibly influential businesses, based out of Ireland, and great food really is the fuel for minds that are shaping the world we live in. 

With that in mind, we’re starting to flip the script on what ‘food in the workplace’ really means.  The traditional notion of 9-5 office working and fixed breakfast/lunchtime slots are becoming a thing of the past.  We need to flex and adapt, manage unpredictability and feed the nation’s workforces in a way that works for them.  Whether that’s serving them in a contemporary restaurant space at the office, at their desk and even at home; we can’t be limited by change.