Catering: reasons to be cheerful (part one)

Steven Watts

IMS expert in Improving Education Catering in Primary and Secondary Schools, Academies, College, Universities and Independent Schools.

Catering consultants that save and develop your food service. Review Consultancy works with all education sectors with both in-house and sub-contracted caterers. Our clients include Warwick University, Havering College, Reading School and Bishop of Winchester Academy.

The benefits of our work;

  • Reduced subsidies
  • Improved modern, innovative food services
  • Maximised customer uptakes Increased fresh, seasonal foods locally sourced and ethically purchased
  • Meeting all legal requirements
  • Increased client confidence in their service and caterer

Our services include;

  • Service Quality and Financial Audits / on-going Monitoring
  • Options Appraisals
  • Tendering
  • Catering Facility Design
  • Service Marketing and Staff Training
  • In-house Support and Development

We start with an initial free, no obligation meeting from which a proposal is presented; with most projects agreed at a fixed fee and definitely no hidden costs.

In the majority of projects, our fees are more than recovered by the first year’s savings through the implementation of Review Consultancy’s strategies and recommendations.

For more information and to arrange your free initial no obligation meeting, please ring 023 9223 2647 or visit www.reviewconsultancy.co.uk.

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Through my involvement with catering in the education sector over the last 20 years or so, I have seen many business cycles. In state schools we have gone from the service of a very limited, home cooked but highly subsidised offer; to very commercial burger, chips and fizzy drinks with little staff input and profit returns; then Jamie Oliver’s intervention causing mass panic; to today, with the emergence of a more common sense approach. Today’s pupils are very “High Street” and value wise, but after the last 5 or so years of health messages, they are also looking for “good” food. Whilst most caterers and School Business Managers have great common sense, trying to comply with the onerous School Food Standards seemed impossible and with the resulting stagnation in sales and free meal uptake, not entirely the right strategy either. Certainly, caterers needed to improve things; as a father of four, I would not be happy with my children being offered burger and chips every day, however, to dramatically move to the full implementation of the standards was, in my opinion, too far too fast.

Through our recent tendering work with many secondary schools we are seeing an on-going development of excellent and exciting food offered to pupils. At last, the range of dishes offered each day is reducing so that real chefs and customer focused service assistants have time to improve the freshness, quality, presentation and service of real stone baked pizzas, hand carved roasts with all the trimmings and fresh vegetables, made to order hot salads, freshly battered fish and chips, whole roasted chickens, a deli offering a range of breads and fillings, the aroma of a real Italian cappuccino and fresh fruit and smoothy bars... I could go on!

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Whilst most in the industry (including me) were very critical of the School Food Standards, it has been the catalyst for much needed change. It will always be a challenge to serve 1000 pupils in a morning break and lunch in just over an hour but good caterers are still finding innovative ways to achieve real theatre and quality in their service to pupils - with now meteoric sales in return.

In independent schools, there has always been a higher available budget and a higher expectation, but the budget was not always used wisely and often expectations missed. Today, through working with Bursars and caterers, quality and value is shining through. Product provenance and exceptional culinary skills are combining to provide Independent school pupils with the best food offerings. In addition, service costs are more transparent and better managed providing Bursars with real value for money. Generally, there is more time for pupils to enjoy their eating experience and therefore more time for the caterer to impress. Good caterers are exploiting this to the full by taking the best and freshest of food service innovations; wok cooking, omelette bars, carveries, freshly made pasta, tapas and fruit bars and making them work in volume.

In colleges and universities, with a total lack of restriction, the high street has truly arrived but at better value to students. Caterers are emulating the high street offers but, by providing an in-house and equal quality version without the high franchise and branding costs, can serve students what they want without the high tariff. Clearly, the facility, marketing and branding must be professionally developed on-trend to up the standards seen on the high street. However, most colleges and universities have excellent marketing departments where students can engage in the branding project; providing both quality and value.

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Whilst being very cheerful about the very positive signs in all education sectors, a cautionary note; we need to encourage all caterers to be brave enough to trial all their food service ideas no matter how radical they may seem. In every sector we are expecting the pupils and students to eat in the same restaurant day after day at the same service times; this is complete madness! We cannot change the restaurant but we can change the offer from time to time. It is essential that we continually prove to our education customers that they can trust our quality and value and that they should keep coming back to our services to check out our different offers today. I started by talking about great food and service, so would like to end on the same note by praising some caterers we work with for their predominate use of fresh, seasonal foods and the creation of innovative dishes (even vegetarian dishes without cheese!). The pupils and students we speak to in the course of our projects all ask for quick to get to, fresh food, attractively presented that tastes good and represents value. Sounds easy doesn’t it?

Learn more...

Check out Innovate My School's Catering Services Directory for an in-depth comparison of innovative catering services.

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