Looking to save time and money on catering?

Mandy Chambers, senior new markets and innovations manager for apetito, talks about how schools can potentially save time and money on their catering, whilst providing nutritionally balanced menus for pupils

Catering can be complex: it’s a balance of prioritising how you save time and money, whilst continuing to offer variety, all without compromising on quality. When it comes to mealtimes, a significant challenge for schools is how to ensure their catering provision can be delivered in a way which is cost-effective, whilst guaranteeing nutritional content, at a time when schools are experiencing varying numbers of both pupils and staff and are continuing to adapt to new ways of working.

Reduce costs, maintain quality

With schools facing varying numbers of pupils and staff dining on-site as a result of the on-going pandemic, many schools are looking to simplify their catering in order to manage costs and reduce waste. However, it is important that schools choose a catering system which also allows them to continue to provide variety and cater for all preferences and dietary requirements.

One option for schools is to use a pre-prepared catering system which offers variety, convenience and consistency, all whilst saving schools money through streamlining operations, reducing waste and associated costs.

As these meals can be cooked simply by any member of the school team, a pre-prepared meal solution can reduce labour requirements while also providing peace of mind that, even if the kitchen is short-staffed, the school will be able to maintain the continuity of its catering without compromising on the quality of its meals. The simplicity of using pre-prepared meals reduces the number of staff required in the kitchen at any one time, allowing schools to create a safer, more Covid-secure work environment for its catering team.

The simplicity of using pre-prepared meals reduces the number of staff required in the kitchen at any one time, allowing schools to create a safer, more Covid-secure work environment for its catering team

Some pre-prepared meal solutions are delivered frozen, which is not only a convenient and cost-effective way to prepare tasty meals with minimal waste, it also provides a number of nutritional advantages. Frozen food very often contains more vitamins and minerals, as flash freezing straight after cooking can preserve optimal nutritious value, making them more nutritionally reliable than their fresh counterparts.

What’s more, for schools with limited storage, pre-prepared meals may be the ideal solution as this catering system requires minimal kitchen space and equipment. Suppliers can support schools on best practice and will advise on the most efficient equipment for the size of the school.

Simple menu solutions to save time

We know from talking to our customers that right now, saving time is also important in this ‘new normal’.

It is important for catering staff to understand how to build menus for all dietary needs, as providing a menu that both tastes great and offers variety, in addition to being safe and nutritious, is the key to a great dining experience. However, with many dietary requirements and preferences to take into consideration, creating menus which deliver variety and guarantee nutrition which meet all needs can be complex and time consuming.

By working with suppliers of pre-prepared meals, schools can plan menus, review nutritional content and ensure that any dietary requirements are met, in a simple, time-efficient way. Suppliers will work with dedicated chefs and dietitians to ensure meals not only taste great, but also deliver optimal nutritional value across a range of dietary needs. This information is then provided to schools via online portals, allowing them to simply build menus tailored to the individual needs of the pupils.

Managing food waste

Pre-prepared meals can assist schools in managing portion control and wastage. When catering for varying numbers, catering teams need only cook what is required on a particular day, as many meals are offered in a variety of portion sizes to suit different appetites, nutritional requirements and tastes. For example, a standard tray may serve 8-10 pupils, however smaller trays, as well as individual portion meals, will be available, which helps manage cost and minimise wastage when catering for reduced numbers or specific dietary requirements.

What’s more, if choosing a frozen option, as freezing naturally preserves ingredients, food can be kept in reserve for much longer than fresh or chilled produce, where deterioration and waste disposal is a much quicker process.

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