HCL & SchoolGrid Partner for Success

We interview HCL's Ian Hamilton about the positive effects of using the SchoolGrid system, including winning new business, retaining schools, increasing uptake and reducing cost.

In their mission to provide clients with a modern, progressive service, finding a solution for on-line ordering was a priority for Hertfordshire Catering Ltd (HCL). “It’s something schools raised repeatedly during discussion” says CEO, Ian Hamilton.

Key objectives for the system included speeding up meals service, increasing parent payment flexibility and retaining contracts by meeting increasing customer expectations. With that in mind, in 2018, HCL undertook a tendering exercise to find the most suitable provider.

“Flexibility was so important”, says Ian. “Some schools were still asking pupils to sign up for meals weeks in advance, which was financially off-putting for many parents. We had to find ways to provide a solution suitable for parents to order and pay on-line without making further demands on school administration.”

SchoolGrid came out on top as it offered the most customer-friendly solution.

Pre-launch, there was the expected nervousness around the introduction of an ‘IT system’, particularly true of the on-site catering teams, many of whom were uncomfortable around technology. However, concerns proved to be unfounded thanks to the level of support provided by SchoolGrid. The SchoolGrid team provided all the necessary training at all levels, supporting the managers first. This ‘top down’ approach meant each tier of ‘user’ fully understood their required actions and could see the benefits before the next level of staff were approached.

Ian continues “From the start, the system was very popular with schools who quickly saw demands on their admin time reduced. As information about meals numbers was available at a much earlier stage, food preparation and ordering became simpler for kitchen staff. Within a week of introduction, even the youngest pupils became ‘experts’ in using the system, enjoying the shorter queueing times and always being guaranteed their first choice of meal.”

Over the past 4 years, HCL have received only positive feedback on the SchoolGrid system and growth in demand for it is organic. Ian explains, “We don’t have to actively ‘sell’ SchoolGrid into further schools. They approach us because of the positive discussions they have with each other at networking events. SchoolGrid has assisted us to both retain school contracts and pick up new business. Now installed in 25% of our 400 primary schools, SchoolGrid is offered as a ‘standard’ part of our school lunch solution to all new contracts. The system has delivered other benefits. For example, the detailed management reports available assist our food development team to maximise the menu offer among those schools not yet using the system, reducing food waste and ensuring that food production cost targets are achieved.”

Ian believes that SchoolGrid adds great value to their well-respected catering offer, giving clients yet another reason to purchase their service from HCL. Such is the strength of the relationship and support for each other that Ian encourages schools to contact SchoolGrid directly should there be any issues. “It’s one less thing for my team and I to worry about” Ian concludes.

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