Over the last few years, we have seen schools becoming increasingly concerned about the standards of food provision, with more and more choosing to outsource for the first time and many others wanting to find something different.
Schools clearly now recognise that food plays a significant role in their overall offering. Parents are no longer just looking at the standards of academic and sporting facilities: school food is high up
on their checklist too. And more often than not, we find it is one of the first things that incoming Heads seek to address on joining a new school.
One of the most important questions for our schools is: where does the food they are serving come from? Transparency in the food supply chain is top of the agenda not just for supermarkets and restaurants, but for schools as well. Knowing that your caterer has personal relationships with local, trusted suppliers who provide certified organic, sustainable or high-welfare foods relieves that pressure. The schools we work with genuinely care about the ingredients we are buying and the cooking methods we are using. Cooking from scratch using local, seasonal produce is a key focus for Holroyd Howe.
(Above) Ronan Harte
We also know that the environment which a school caterer creates can have a transformative effect on the pupils. Replacing an out-of-date dining hall with an efficient servery, stylish dining tables and chairs, and engaging décor that reflects the school’s ethos is a tangible change from which everyone at the school will benefit.
This space is one of the few where the whole school will gather together on a regular basis, and its look and feel will greatly impact on the whole dining experience. Whether you are a boarding school in need of a home-from-home feel, or a primary school wanting to create a fun, stimulating environment, the school caterer’s role is to help to achieve this.
However, the greatest responsibility of any modern school caterer is to inspire and educate pupils. With many children eating up to four daily meals at school, five (sometimes seven) days a week, for 14 years or more, school meals have a significant impact on their long-term understanding and enjoyment of food.
More than just chefs, our staff are often responsible for helping to educate pupils in food provenance, cookery, nutrition and even social etiquette – all of which contribute to these young people’s overall personal development.
The three essentials for your school caterer shopping list, by Ronan Harte
We always tell our clients that we take the responsibility – but they retain sovereignty. In order to achieve that happy balance, you need to trust your caterers. This sense of trust should become apparent in the selection process.
If you and your staff interact well with the catering team, your expectations and deadlines for information are met, and the benefits of their proposals are tangible, you are probably onto a good thing.
HEALTH & WELLBEING
It is well known that school food has a substantial impact on the health and wellbeing of pupils. Every good school caterer should have a well-thumbed manifesto on nutrition that they can share with you – so make sure that you ask to read it.
EXCITING, INSPIRING FOOD
If your school wants to exceed expectations, the school food must do exactly that. It follows that the caterer needs to be offering meals and snacks that go far beyond the typical lasagnes and curries. Exceptional food is creative, exciting – and inspired by the world outside of school. Look for these qualities when reviewing menus – and, most importantly, make sure you taste what’s on offer!
Ronan Harte is Managing Director of independent school caterers Holroyd Howe.