The economic pains of the few years have been felt across the board and for councils in particular. The school meals provision hasn’t escaped these woes, as inflation and supply chain issues continue to grip the food industry.
Cheshire East council recently revealed they incurred a £95,000 loss on their school meals in 2021-22, citing multiple factors for financial loss. The authority has called for a review into the losses which will cost over £8,000.
In this blog, MD of Evolve 4, Ernie Dewhirst, explores how efficient school meal provision can be achieved despite the testing economic climate.
Cheshire East’s losses
Cheshire East have cited two factors as the main cause of their losses, with the first being academies going it alone and finding their own school meal provider.
The second is the rise in staffing and food costs which is a cost that councils across the country have had to shoulder and was an inevitable knock-on effect of supply chain issues and inflation.
The council’s school meal service operates with a core of team of 11 when fully staffed and across the 92 schools in the unitary authority there are just over 300 staff employed.
This is a large expense, but while the catering industry faces a sizeable economic challenge, it’s crucial that councils find ways of costing down their school meal provision.
School catering challenges
Caterers are currently facing huge challenges for a whole host of reasons, from availability of staff and drivers to food price inflation, making it difficult to operate a school meal service.
Overall costs are indeed high, but school meal provision is critical, as having a hot meal at lunchtime has been shown to hugely improve educational outcomes among children.
Fortunately, there is no need to reduce meal provision or price parents out as, with the appropriate systems in place, schools can improve their efficiency.
There is no doubt that we are living in exceptional times for the food (and many other) industries.
It’s therefore important that an increase in meal uptake is achieved to claw back losses made.
Yet, with the increasing cost-of-living crisis, it is unfair to outprice parents on school meals.
Our systems take into account species and allergen requirement which provides transparency for parents and more choice for children when they pre-select their meals which should increase uptake.
Pre-ordering should also reduce waste as children with a choice are more likely to eat the meals they select, which minimises the cost of disposal.
With school meal uptake, schools will serve more meals, which will reduce the service cost per meal, and this can be achieved with Evolve software.
All of this can help bring about greater efficiency in school kitchens and with the right system schools and councils can significantly reduce their losses and operate in a much more financially sustainable way.
If you think that Evolve can provide the perfect solution for your catering needs, don’t hesitate to get in touch through our website.