Why we must keep offering more and more food choices

Putting on 40-60 fresh food choices cooked from scratch at each of 40 UK sites, each school day means lots of hard work for lots of people. So why do we keep on doing it?

Do we really have to make it this hard for ourselves?

From a business point of view it’s easy to argue that we could remove some of our less popular choices and trim our range down to a core of popular items to save ourselves time and money. This is what some caterers do – I know that for a fact. But it can never be our way.

To understand our thinking on this, you have to see school food service from the customer’s point of view.

Think about a thousand young customers entering the same food service area every day, and how stultifying and dull that experience could so easily become.

Our task is to do all we possibly can to re-invigorate, inspire and excite them with our food, every single day.

There’s a huge amount of media talk these days about school food raising its game, and how young people should be eating healthy.

Yes of course I agree with that, it’s what we are all about and I think we do it better than anyone. But remember, we are not just caterers, we’re educators too. And as all good teachers know, kids rarely learn in a straight line. When results come, it’s never all at once.

I see how hard schools today work at building confidence and self-esteem by encouraging students to have a go, take risks and learn from their mistakes. It’s how progress is made. That’s how we make a difference too.

Our chefs love to tell me about the little victories that make their day. You know, the breakthrough moments when a child opts for something they’ve never tasted before, then discovers how yummy it is, or even when they just ask questions about some of the food.

We want our students to be inquisitive and try new things, but just like the classroom, progress is gradual.

Those special moments I mentioned are the educator’s reward for persistence. Teachers work hard to understand the learning needs of each and every individual in their care. Pass rates improve because less and less is left to chance.

It’s no different for us at Cucina. When all those young people come swarming into the food service area, they may all look the same in their uniforms, but what tremendous differences there are between them, in their moods, their tastes, their backgrounds and their eating habits.

Some are adventurous with their food, possibly like they are at home, others are far less so. Some are vegetarians, some take comfort in eating the same things every single day while others show early signs of becoming genuine foodies. Some have just never been exposed to much variety in their diets.

And, most importantly of all, let’s not forget that this customer base of ours is made up of young people going through what is probably the most perplexing and difficult time of their lives.

They are constantly reassessing their relationships and their place in the world, working out who they are and where they are going. And as all parents of teenagers know, they can be very much a victim of their moods.

Some days they might be bright, happy, upbeat and ready to try something different and new – possibly a gourmet offering from our new Ash Mair signature range. Another time they might be feeling a little under the weather and more inclined towards one of the quicker to eat ‘grab and go’  tub grub items.

To meet all these moods and backgrounds and continue to inspire kids about food, we are always looking at new ways to broaden our offering and provide more food choices, not less!

That’s what I love about this brand we’ve created. It means we’ll never compromise.

And that’s what our clients tell me they love about it too.

Till next time,

Steve

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