In-house school catering, the time is right at Chase View Community Primary School

  • Andy Minott - Head Teacher Chase View Community Primary

In-house school catering; the time is right.

For many schools and academies, the move to in-house catering can seem a huge step into the unknown. Schools aren’t only concerned about their lack of knowledge of how to run a safe catering business but also whether there will be a financial impact on the school. For larger primary and secondary schools with a bigger meal uptake this might not be an issue, but for a small primary school with a low roll number it can be quite daunting.

Chase View Community Primary is a relatively small primary school in Staffordshire. When the school originally approached us to discuss their  catering in 2014, the roll number was approximately 180 pupils. At that time, the school were disillusioned with the incumbent caterer; the catering service didn’t offer value for money and they had no control to effect change. They knew that by taking the catering in house they could have a better service and one that reflected the school’s ethos of ‘enrichment and enjoyment’ for their pupils. However, at that time, with a low meal uptake the school felt that the incomes couldn’t justify the move to in-house school catering. Our belief at CMC is to be open and honest with schools. We create the initial catering budget based on the current meal uptake and don’t promise potential clients that they will immediately see a sharp increase in school meal numbers, we know schools want to work with a company that’s transparent with them.

Fast forward to 2019 and Andy Minott, the Head Teacher, had seen enough of contract catering meals. Despite an increasing cohort, the lunch uptake had actually decreased as the quality of the food offer was so poor; Andy realised that things had to change. At CMC we know that an improved food offer, with good quality produce purchased through our robust procurement can increase meal uptake and we encourage this by budgeting for a higher plate cost, which allows Catering Managers better choice when purchasing.

The school made the move to in-house school catering with CMC in March 2020, just at the start of Covid restrictions. Many schools might think this bad timing but throughout the pandemic, those schools who catered in house appear to have fared better. They were able to tailor their service to suit the restrictions in their school with the advice and support from their CMC Consultant and were not been hit with unexpected costs. Our Catering Consultant, Steve Evans, worked with the Chase View Catering Team to ensure that despite delivering school meals out to bubbles in classrooms, they created a menu that could still provide a healthy, hot lunch to pupils.

The Catering Team are now happier in their work and feel more supported by their CMC Consultant. They’re less pressured to meet budgetary targets and eager to create good food for the pupils, which shows in the empty plates and less food waste at the end of service.

And what about Andy, the Head Teacher, has his vision of in-house school catering with CMC lived up to his expectations?

"Joining CMC was going to be a bonus to us as we were able to take control of a school menu that would excite and delight our children and of course bring all of the nutritional values that are required too. The CMC team are supportive and bring a wealth of knowledge and insights into running a great kitchen service to underpin the great food we are now bringing to our children. Alongside the positives I have already mentioned is the reduction of wasted food. It was always soul destroying watching almost full plates being emptied, this is no longer the case. Less waste and smiling faces, that’s all I ever wanted!"

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