May 26, 2017

As featured in The Independent Schools Magazine
Kathryn Pell-Walpole, our director of sales, explores how a great catering operation can benefit a school.

It’s not enough to provide exceptional levels of teaching these days. In this highly competitive marketplace, independent schools have to consider exceptional standards of food too. The scrutiny of discerning prospective parents goes far beyond the quality of the food on the plate, extending to everything from a school’s purchasing ethos to its ability to keep up with food trends.

How the food is presented can also speak volumes about a school’s quality standards and creative approach, resonating with the entire school community, from governors and staff to pupils and their parents.


The first thing to consider is: how important is catering to your school?

Setting a clear vision to define what your catering philosophy is can help. Is it about filling hungry tummies or does it mean much more than that? What are your key objectives and how will you measure value? By knowing exactly what your objectives are, you are more likely to find a caterer with a good cultural fit to your school.


Here are three added values a good catering service can bring.


Word of mouth

When it comes to sports teas or a boarder’s parent dropping by for lunch, are you confident that the food is of a consistently high standard to reflect your ethos and values? People always remember and talk about good food and how it is presented. Imagine the reaction to an assortment of freshly made sandwiches being presented on a cricket bat at a match tea? Or how about using a noodle box to serve an oriental dish to give a child a sense of having a ‘takeaway’ experience at suppertime?

Presentation is everything. There is no excuse for food being served in industrial-style stainless steel containers when there are so many contemporary and stylish ceramic dishes available to give an authentic, rustic feel. The response we see from children is enough to know that the choice of a display dish makes a huge difference on their perception of the food. Slate, wooden boards and attractive ceramic serving bowls can all add to the eating experience.

Pastoral care

The challenges facing bursars are many, not the least of which is balancing cost against parents’ increasingly high expectations. Compromises have to be made but when it comes to food, it’s got to be right. An ethos of providing seasonal, fresh food made on site by craft skilled chefs shows the care and thought that has gone into the catering operation to ensure the very best for pupils.

CSR kudos

The school community extends well beyond the school gate. For example, from our experience, we know that many parents are local business people. In fact, some are even our suppliers! Choosing a caterer with a local supply ethos not only builds relationships within the wider community but minimises food miles and ensures maximum nutritional content. Communicating this to the school body and to prospective parents can enhance a school’s reputation for sustainable practice.

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