We see our role as much more than just putting food on the plate. We know it’s about working with our schools to educate pupils about the food we serve, food choices, sustainability and the social features of sharing a table with friends.
But what if we, as contractors, were not there? How would schools manage the foodservice, and all that goes with it, if they opted to go it alone?
For many years we have debated the pros and cons of outsourcing a school’s food operation. After the year we’ve had, some schools are once again considering the virtues of going in-house or adopting a hybrid approach, buying-in support as and where needed to manage the many areas a food business covers.
Will this dilute the expertise and result in a less nutritional-, health- and wellbeing-focused approach to dining in schools?
Firstly, let’s consider exactly what food companies around the country have been doing this past year to keep the show on the road, ensuring pupils are fed, and fed well. Contractors have a wealth of expertise and professional qualifications that are often overlooked. It’s this experience that has shone during the last year.
Agile management has allowed caterers to tenaciously carry on in their creative logistical and HSE capabilities, taking the concerns away from schools whose teams have had more than enough to cope with. These attributes have never been so essential in ensuring a service of whatever scope or style has been delivered as seamlessly as possible, whilst remembering the children at the forefront of it all.
We have managed a very challenging environment and shown our value as part of the school management team in every way possible. Reacting to the continuous changes and removing the need for schools to worry about staffing levels, sickness cover, Covid-19 outbreaks in kitchens, food deliveries and so on, and not to mention the huge amount of health and safety and food safety requirements over and above the usual expectations.
Training, supporting and communicating with individuals and teams on the ground on what to do and how to do it has been no small feat, as the teaching world will no doubt attest to. Contractors have taken on their part and worked sympathetically within clients’ financial boundaries, as well as our own.
Whilst doing this we have added value to the school community by connecting via virtual streams to pupils and parents/carers with weekly marketing and education pieces.
We have managed a very challenging environment and shown our value as part of the school management team in every way possible
Our marketing strategies have helped to give pupils and their parents/carers the confidence not just to eat with us through the pandemic but also to appreciate the importance of food in every aspect of our lives – from how the food choices we make can improve our wellbeing to the future of the world around us.
We have worked alongside schools to ensure pupils have plenty to keep them busy at home, including step-by-step recipes and instructional videos that give everyone, of all culinary abilities, the confidence to try it at home.
Our parent/carer communications have ensured that everyone feels fully informed about our approach to feeding their children. Highlighting the importance of what we do, alongside targeted information for those with children starting senior schools, we continue to outline the benefits of school meals to make sure parents/carers are engaged with our service and, in turn, the school.
The question remains: can this all be done without caterers, whose professionalism and value are vital in the rebuilding of our world? Of course you’d expect me to say no. But my main message is that now is the time to recognise that caterers add huge social value in our schools and communities and excel in what they do best – engaging with people and food.