On taking up post as Head of Commercial Services for Bury Council, David Catterall was pleased to learn that a trial of SchoolGrid was already underway in three schools. ‘Although not familiar with the system at the time, I could quickly see that its adoption would assist my contribution to our corporate priorities of modernisation, greater inclusiveness and addressing the environmental crisis’, David says.
SchoolGrid streamlined existing management systems. Though less labour-intensive, it provided greater, more detailed management data. Kitchen Managers quickly understood that the system would improve their roles. ‘Because SchoolGrid has been designed by caterers, from the start, using it didn’t seem alien to them’, David explains. ‘The required processes made sense and so came naturally. Although reducing labour costs wasn’t an objective of ours, the system actually does free up staff time, meaning that they can concentrate more on service enhancement and customer engagement’.
Schools were quick to see the benefits – particularly around admin. ‘It always pays well to keep school admin teams happy’ laughs David. ‘SchoolGrid removes the laborious processes of reconciling cash and chasing outstanding debts’. Headteachers appreciate the improved service to pupils that SchoolGrid facilitates, thereby increasing overall school satisfaction with our service.
SchoolGrid also enables increased direct contact with parents. ‘It’s made our service more transparent, understandable and accessible to them’, David says. ‘Previously, much of the contact was carried via schools, sometimes resulting in systems which weren’t particularly customer-friendly e.g. requiring any pupil wanting school meals to commit for as much as a half term. Now, they can choose to take a meal as late as 9.00am each morning’.
Parent confidence has increased. On accessing the menus, they can easily see that the system doesn’t allow the selection of any options containing allergens dangerous to their child. They can also see that, despite those dishes being ‘off limits’, there is still a wide selection from which their child can choose. ‘It has improved perceptions of the service’, David explains. ‘We no longer receive calls from anxious parents who’ve been told by their child that there was ‘nothing to choose from’.
‘Pupils too, enjoy the improved service. They’re always guaranteed their preferred choice of meal, they spend less time queuing, and they experience a better and more informed relationship with service staff – all of which makes our service more appealing to them’.
‘With SchoolGrid, food waste has reduced by around 8%, helping minimise our negative environmental impact. Furthermore, when combined with the 8% increase in meals uptake, it has resulted in a substantial reduction in operating costs. So much so, that the system pays for itself. This allows us to offer schools an improved and more appealing service – at no extra cost!’
The initial trial has now been rolled out to a further 20 schools. David plans to extend the scheme to all remaining schools within the current financial year. ‘We were a strong service before’, he explains. ‘SchoolGrid has simply made us better – we are now more attractive to our clients and customers. SchoolGrid are supportive, accessible and solutions focussed. We would recommend them to any local authority looking to improve their service’.