We’re on a mission to create a positive food culture and to help more students eat better food. Naturally, our sourcing strategy and supply chain must be aligned to these worthy objectives and we’re going to explore how we’ve approached this and the benefits it has.
Sourcing is of paramount importance, as Matthew Went, managing director, highlights: “We’ve grown from a food-first ethos, where quality and provenance really matter.
You can’t do that successfully without having a sourcing strategy to match. We value every ingredient that comes into our kitchens, sometimes we even grow them ourselves, and we work in lockstep with our suppliers to make sure that we always get quality seasonal produce.”
IFG have been using this strategy successfully for a number of years across their other brands and below are the main themes we’ve identified.
Loving British food
IFG have a clear eye on partnering with schools who won’t compromise on quality but recognise the clear commercial benefits of a smart outsourcing strategy.
Key to all of this is a procurement and menu strategy designed to celebrate the best of British produce, as Sam Wilson, IFG food director, explains: “We know that some of the finest produce in the world can be found right here in Britain.
“We’ve got a proud farming tradition which, I think, we should support and celebrate more often. Supporting local businesses and those who share our values is the way to make an impact; both on society and business. And that’s what we want to bring to our restaurants, every single day.
“Seasonal produce is celebrated and highlighted across the IFG estate and is presented to younger children in a fun and informative way. By engaging with the children and making creative dishes out of seasonal produce, they encourage them to try new things and experiment more with food.”
Matthew adds: “Food has to be fun and exciting; we absolutely love it when we see those huge smiles after the children have tried something new and delicious for the first time.”
Using local suppliers and helping build connections can result in some really powerful partnerships at the school level, Matthew says, but a good sourcing strategy must “not ignore all the amazing products we can get from across the country”.
“From amazing Welsh lamb to Norfolk strawberries and Cornish cream. There’s a danger of being too localised when we think about our products, but we should be focusing on the best of British and the quality of those products.
“We live in a wonderfully diverse country, diverse in thought and deed as well as landscape and agriculture. Let’s celebrate that diversity and enjoy regional specialities from across the country. There’s a story behind these dishes and products which presents a wonderful opportunity to learn more about these great isles.
“Of course, loving British food doesn’t mean we should ignore all the amazing global cuisines. We’re a nation of pretty intrepid food explorers and we’re seeing an ever-increasing appetite for global flavours from our students.
“For us, this means we still do really exciting new concepts, such as our incredibly popular Korean street food pop-up, but we use free-range British chicken to go along with our sweet and spicy Gochujang sauce. It’s all about pushing the envelope on taste but not compromising on sourcing strategy.”
Matthew says it’s really important to build connections – both with the local community and also with children’s perception of food. “The phrase ‘field to fork’ has been in vogue for a number of years but is rarely implemented well. Food education should be an important element of any well-rounded education, and by partnering with passionate local suppliers, we can help bring the farm or field inside.
“Setting up supplier demonstration days and helping the students explore how the produce arrives on their plates is vital if we’re to help tackle the global issue of sustainable food production. This process helps build connections with food but also strengthens the local business community. Schools can be a hub for so much positivity in the community, and that’s what real value-add looks like.”
To discuss further please contact Matthew Went on firstname.lastname@example.org or 07990 069871