Is your catering like the proverbial dripping tap?


So, how long have school meals been on your ‘to-do’ list? 6 months? 6 years? Do they figure on your list at all?

Like anything that can be complicated to work on, what I hear so often when I’m out visiting schools is that ‘sorting out our catering’ has to queue behind the myriad other things that are demanding your attention more quickly. Because pupils are getting fed, one way or another, every day; your caterer assures you you’re meeting your obligations on nutrition and free school meals; and you’re not getting much feedback from pupils or parents, it gets dropped into the ‘do next term’ pile again and again and again. Just like an old house that needs doing up, improving school meals can sometimes feel never-ending. You finish one part of the job and uncover something else which is causing a problem.

But like rising damp or a leaky roof, ignore your school’s catering service at your peril. It’s so important to get your food right. Not only will it help to make life better for your staff (better organisation at lunchtime means shorter queues and fewer disciplinary issues, more pupils wanting to use your canteen and, so, eating better food for lunch). In turn, that’s more concentration in the classroom and another way to help improve attainment. It’s also – so obviously – good business sense. Your catering is a big asset for your school. Do it well, use it wisely, and your lunchtime experience can be a huge selling point to parents and a source of income for investing in your school’s offer.

So how do you know when it’s time to look at your catering service more closely?

  • The number of pupils opting to use your canteen is falling or takings drop 
  • The number of children taking up their free school meals at your school declines
  • Costs of your service are going up
  • You’re getting complaints
  • You’re noticing more children bringing a packed lunch or buying food en route to school to keep for lunchtime

Don’t put your school’s catering at the bottom of the list. It might not always be the easiest fix, but it’s one of the most worthwhile for your school.

Jeremy Boardman is our head of catering support, who works with schools on improving their catering service. Follow Jeremy on Twitter, or read more about help to review your catering service.


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