Tag Archives: schools
Fast food and mass catering may appear to be the invention of the 20th century but catering for the masses transcends millennia. Evidence has been excavated at the site of the Pyramids. This revealed a mess hall for the workers, long benches and tables and fish and meat bones. Armies throughout history were fed en masse (possibly not with the healthiest food but fed nonetheless) so catering as a trade has a long heritage.
The modern idea of fast food evolved with the inception of the motor industry where it became easier for people to pop into a store to buy a burger. By the 1950s in the USA, fast food was in full swing. It wasn’t long before heavy advertising and the introduction of children’s meals made it a firm favourite. Today, the global contribution of fast food outlet revenue is in the region of £500 billion.
Fast Food Growing
According to a recent report in the Guardian, the total number of takeaway food shops in England has risen by 4,000 in the past three years. This is an increase of 8%. There are currently 56,638 takeaways in England. They comprises more than 25% of all the country’s food outlets.
Many of the 326 local authorities in the UK have seen significant increases in the number of fast food outlets. Between 2014 and 2017, 20 record rises of more than 20%. Only 40 councils (12%) have seen the number of fast food outlets fall or stay the same.
Since 2012, the fast food and mass catering industry has performed relatively well. Takeaway operators have responded to higher levels of consumer expenditure by introducing higher quality food, often using organic produce and ensuring low-fat, low-sugar and low-salt meal options.
Despite the constant criticism of unhealthy and high calorific food content, fast food is still very popular . Reasons include affordable prices, busy lifestyles and increasing on-the-go consumption. There is also a much wider variety of products available to accommodate different dietary requirements.
With any mass catering, the emphasis is on efficiency and hygiene. This is true whether it is for a fast food chain or a mess hall, hotel, hospital, airline or school. Too many instances of bad practice resulting in food poisoning or infection have been traced to bad habits in the kitchen or inadequate cooking facilities.
An oven, such as the Rational units, must not only cook the food but also synchronise the cooking of each individual element. It should also be fast and reliable in performance. In addition, the oven must be regularly serviced and checked. This is best as part of an ongoing maintenance regime to ensure top performance.
Contact AC Services on 01454 322222 if you are a fast food and mass catering organisation for appliance best practice .
They may not draw the same crowds as the winter sports, but there now seems to be an explosion of cricket with the Champions Trophy. But more importantly it’s the start of the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup taking place between 24 June and 23 July and which is attracting great excitement.
Hosted by both England and Wales, the 2017 Women’s Cricket World Cup is an international women’s cricket tournament which has been going for 11 years. It is the third time it has been held in England (after the 1973 and 1993 tournaments), both of which England won. No pressure there then…
Eight teams have qualified to participate in the tournament: Australia, England, New Zealand, West Indies, India, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Lord’s will host the final, and other matches will be played at the home grounds of Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Somerset and Gloucestershire.
Good news for cricket fans: the ICC announced that 10 games will be shown live on television, while the remaining 21 matches will be streamed live via the ICC website.
For those who are unfamiliar with women’s cricket, it may surprise you to learn that the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup is the oldest and most prestigious international women’s cricket tournament in the world.
It was first held in 1973 two years before the inaugural men’s tournament. Since 2005, it has held a regular four-year slot. However, the international scene originally stretches back to 1934, when a party from England toured Australia and New Zealand and won.
To date, ten World Cups have been played in five different countries with Australia winning six titles and England three .
Where and When
The timetable for the qualifying matches is as follows:
- 24 June: England v India, County Ground, Derby
- 24 June: New Zealand v Sri Lanka, Bristol County Ground, Bristol
- 25 June: Pakistan v South Africa, Grace Road, Leicester
- 26 June: Australia v West Indies, County Ground, Taunton
- 27 June: England v Pakistan, Grace Road, Leicester
- 28 June: South Africa v New Zealand, County Ground, Derby
- 29 June: Sri Lanka v Australia, Bristol County Ground, Bristol
- 29 June: West Indies v India, County Ground, Taunton
- 2 July: Australia v New Zealand, Bristol County Ground, Bristol
- 2 July: India v Pakistan, County Ground, Derby
- 2 July: South Africa v West Indies, Grace Road, Leicester
- 2 July: England v Sri Lanka, County Ground, Taunton
- 5 July: England v South Africa, Bristol County Ground, Bristol
- 5 July: Sri Lanka v India, County Ground, Derby
- 5 July: Pakistan v Australia, Grace Road, Leicester
- 6 July: New Zealand v West Indies, County Ground, Taunton
- 8 July: South Africa v India, Grace Road, Leicester
- 8 July: New Zealand v Pakistan, County Ground, Taunton
- 9 July: England v Australia, Bristol County Ground, Bristol
- 9 July: West Indies v Sri Lanka, County Ground, Derby
- 11 July: West Indies v Pakistan, Grace Road, Leicester
- 12 July: Australia v India, Bristol County Ground, Bristol
- 12 July: England v New Zealand, County Ground, Derby
- 12 July: Sri Lanka v South Africa, County Ground, Taunton
- 15 July: England v West Indies, Bristol County Ground, Bristol
- 15 July: India v New Zealand, County Ground, Derby
- 15 July: Pakistan v Sri Lanka, Grace Road, Leicester
- 15 July: South Africa v Australia, County Ground, Taunton
The final will be held at Lord’s on 23 July.
The Women’s Cricket World Cup provides an opportunity for most catering businesses to run slightly different events than those for other sporting tournaments as it spotlights women’s sport. Given women’s sport is growing faster than men and the South West England focus of these matches it would be silly to miss out.
According to a 2016 report, the UK events industry sector is worth a minimum of £42.3B to the UK economy. Conferences and meetings are the most lucrative, followed by exhibitions and trade events with sporting events a close third.
With over 25,000 businesses in the sector, it is a market that is continuing to grow and for caterers, this presents an ideal opportunity.
2016 saw a notable rise in demand for conferences and meetings. This has been put down to the growing need for companies to communicate with staff and contacts face-to-face.
In addition, certain industries, such as pharmaceutical and finance, have seen changes to laws and regulations. This has led to a rise in meetings, as companies rush to update staff. Add Brexit to the mix as companies meet with clients to discuss the proposed changes and the result is clear: corporate is coming back.
The rise of the unusual venue
There are more than 7,000 major outdoor events held each year from festivals, agricultural shows, sporting and charity events through to smaller local craft events. This shows the capacity of the UK events industry to effectively host such events.
One area that has been increasing in popularity is the unique and unusual venue market. These venues range from wineries, sporting stadia, guildhalls, zoos, ships, theatres, castles, racecourses, visitor attractions, museums and distilleries. In fact anywhere that can accommodate people.
Unusual venues have always been very popular for corporate events. The government and public sector are particularly fond of unusual venues, which are used for 30% of their business.
However, choosing an unusual venue is not a random act. Corporate organisers choose a venue that has to motivate, inspire and encourage their clients. Although the classic purpose-built conference centre or hotel group still take most market share, unusual and unique venues are rapidly catching up.
How unique are you?
Unique is described as “something arresting, with individualism and personality, something outside of convention, defined by its difference”. Unusual venues offer rarity, and are pleasantly surprising, and rewarding and often capitalise on the UK’s culture, history and heritage. Castles and museums may be tourist attractions but for the events organisers, they’re also ideal venues.
Regardless of the venue, attendees have to be fed, and for the catering industry the UK events market is massively lucrative. If you are involved in catering, keep your eyes open for venues that could be suitable for corporate meetings and suggest them to events organisers. Or maybe suggest your own venue. Meetings and conferences are making a comeback, so make sure you jump on the bandwagon!
There has been plenty of speculation in the media recently about schools. Labour has announced an ambitious plan to put VAT on private school fees and use the money to fund free meals for all primary school children.
No doubt this is a backlash against Theresa May’s plan to bring back grammar schools but it has inevitably caused some disagreement.
According to the National Association of Head Teachers, school budgets are currently “at breaking point”. Some schools, faced with their first real-terms spending cuts in decades, are making staff redundant. There are more pupils to every class and some subjects are being scrapped.
So parents are understandably a bit sceptical about Labour blowing £1.5 billion on lunches.
New Build Schools
However, the government has already pledged to build more schools, among them 140 new free schools which are destined to create a further 70,000 new places. This comes on the back of the pledge to create more grammar schools. The budget allocated for the changes is £500 million. But existing schools may require a lot more to bring themselves up to the standard of the new ones.
Teaching unions have said that although £216 million has been set aside in maintenance and refurbishment grants, as much as £6.7 billion is needed to return all school buildings to a good condition.
The government’s £0.5B package is also earmarked for public transport costs or minibuses for children from poorer families to go to grammar schools that are between two and fifteen miles from their homes.
School Meals Investment
All government-funded schools must offer free school meals to every pupil in reception, year 1 and year 2 and the funding is and will continue to be £2.30 per meal.
For kitchens, this money can go further with a bit of imagination and the right appliance for the cooking. When buying capital items, it is always good to consider all costs not just the ticket price of the oven. A reliable and well-known model such as the Rational oven range cuts down on maintenance and enhances performance. With a maintenance plan with AC Services (Southern), schools can be assured of immediate service should anything go wrong, and a routine service on a regular basis.
There are other ways of making the money go further. Create more exciting recipes and cook from scratch using healthy ingredients such as vegetables. Reduce wastage by investing in an oven that can keep food at the correct temperature throughout the meal serving times.
There is no way of predicting the future of the educational system, but if you are involved in school meals, then at least preempt any proposed changes and make sure that you are equipped with the most appropriate and up-to-date kitchen knowledge.
Call the team at AC Services to see how we can service and maintain your Rational and Frima equipment economically on 01454 322 222.
Over 300,000 sixth form students collected their A-level results last month. Record numbers have been accepted onto university courses this year. So colleges and universities will soon be busy as well.
As far as subjects go, one subject has doubled its number of candidates over the past 10 years: further maths. The number of entrants has gone up by 110% since 2006, from 7,270 to 15,257. Modern foreign languages (French, German and Spanish) have continued to decline. The number of EU students placed at UK universities and colleges was also the highest on record, increasing to 26,800. It appears Brexit has something to do with these high numbers.
Back to the school situation. This year controversially, exam marking will be changed and O-levels brought back. This marks a major change to the education system in general. Now that it is compulsory that kids have to be either in full time education or get apprenticeships by the time they are 18, some experts are calling on schools and colleges to offer more skills-based subjects.
Marcus Mason, head of education and skills at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), warned that businesses are reporting “huge skills gaps” and said that the skills taught at school must “truly improve” young people’s employability.
Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teachers’ union, called on the Government to make sure that quality higher-level apprenticeships are available to those not continuing in higher education.
Which brings me to ask, whatever happened to old-fashioned home economics? Back in the day, even the most academically-challenged pupil came out of school knowing how to hem a pair of trousers and dish up a passable potato, cheese and onion pie! The aim of home economics was highlighted as follows: “teaching home economics in schools is to help to prepare boys and girls for some important aspects of everyday living and the adult responsibilities of family life.”
Sadly, GCSE home economics was abandoned in 2014 with the last exams for students in this subject taking place in 2017. The good news is that, in the meantime, the Government has developed a new GCSE, Food Preparation and Nutrition, which will be available for first teaching in September 2016.
According the Government, this two-unit specification will offer students “relevant skills and knowledge which are transferable to other settings, enhancing career opportunities and providing a satisfying course of study for candidates of various ages and from diverse backgrounds.”
This is one innovation that has to be welcomed in the context of its potential for apprenticeships. It answers the question of the lack of skills in practical subjects and provides an opportunity for those who recoil from traditional academic courses to learn a useful and potentially employable skill.
Cooking is a life-skill but as with any skill, there are those who will be better than others. The new GCSE introduced this academic year should be encouraged by as many schools and colleges as possible. This will encourage more young people to become familiar with food preparation from an early age. Which will ensure a future generation of trained and knowledgeable apprentice cooks and chefs when they make their choices at 16. This can only be good for catering businesses everywhere.
“Give me a good sharp knife and a good sharp cheese and I’m a happy man.” Wise words indeed from Game of Thrones author, George R.R. Martin, but even he would be spoiled for choice if he ventured down amongst our South West cheese.
Gloucestershire, Devon, Dorset and Cornwall are renowned for their regional foods and cheese is integral to the menus of each region. We are all familiar with Cheddar and Gloucester Red varieties, but throw in a Dunlop or a Forest Oak and it gets more intriguing!
From Gloucester to Cornwall
Woefuldane Organic Dairy is a small family-run business in Gloucestershire which produces organic cheeses, such as Dunlop. The cheese was originally from a town called Dunlop in Ayrshire, then Woefuldane bought the setup 20 years ago when the original supplier sold up. From an ancient recipe, the cheese is now produced in Gloucestershire with a buttery texture and strong flavour.
Another favourite cheese is Forest Oak, which started life as a cloth ripened Dunlop. According to the company, “Forest Oak is smoked twice over oak chips at Severn & Wye Smokery in the Forest of Dean and this is noticeable in its rich yet subtle smoky taste and wonderful crumbly texture”.
Moving down to Dorset, the Woolsery Cheese Company has been the home of award-winning cheeses since 1992, with all produce suitable for vegetarians and gluten free. As well as flavours such as Meadowsweet soft cheese and English Herb Cheese, the company also regularly produces new flavours, including the soft mould ripened cheese, Nanette, which won Silver at the Taste of the West Cheese Awards. This traditionally handmade camembert style cheese ripens to give a white moulded rind with a firmer centre. What makes the company unique however is the launch of cheese wedding cakes to order!
Dorset Red Cheese
Still in Dorset, cheese lovers must taste the Ford Farm’s Dorset Red, a smoked cheese from cows on the company’s West Dorset Estate. Ford claims the cheese is “smooth and velvety, subtly infused with tones of smoked oak, reminiscent of barbecues and long, lazy summer days. Once bitten, forever smitten!” Other flavours include Cave Aged (a cloth-bound Cheddar aged deep within the Wookey Holes Caves), Billies’ Goat Cheddar and Oakwood smoked Cheddar.
In the Devon town of Newton St Cyres is Quickes, boasting a cheese-making legacy of nearly five centuries. 14 generations of the same family have been handcrafting cheeses from specially-bred cows on the farm, producing artisanal cheddar to suit every palate, from the Quicke’s Buttery cheddar to Quicke’s Mature and the two-year-matured Quicke’s Vintage.
Finally, Cornwall boasts a huge choice of cheeses, including the nettle covered Cornish Yarg which is only produced by Lynher Dairies in Ponsanooth in Cornwall but is exported over the world. 2016/17 will see the launch of the newest cheese, Cornish Kern, which is made to a different recipe and is longer maturing with a black waxy rind. The company also produces the Wild Garlic Cornish Yarg.
Cheese is a great British favourite and with so many varieties and flavours to choose from, the South West of England is way up there in cheese manufacture. So there can be no excuses really to prevent the region’s pubs, cafes and restaurants from showcasing truly local South West cheese on their menus.
The prospect of the ovens failing at Lambrook School is too serious to contemplate so as a precaution, the school uses AC Services (Southern) under a pre-arranged maintenance agreement.
Twice a year, the Rational gas ovens – one a SCC WE101 model and the other a SCC WE 201 model – are serviced and should the school require any ad hoc attention, then AC Services are on hand to deliver!
Lambrook is a thriving independent school which is home to 510 boys and girls plus 100+ staff. The Lambrook experience combines first class teaching and superb facilities with traditional values, in the idyllic, tranquil surroundings of the beautiful Berkshire countryside.
According to Sophie Connery, the Catering Manager of the school’s external catering company, The Brookwood Partnership, the relationship with AC Services is utterly essential to the smooth running of the kitchen. “When we first starting using Rational ovens at Lambrook School there was a maintenance company on call, but AC Services came recommended from Rational and we haven’t looked back since.”
Sophie admits that there are few major things that go wrong, but the small little niggles can sometimes be just as annoying. “It really doesn’t matter what the problem is, large or small, AC Services come out and see us. We had noisy dry heat burners and the engineers were sent out immediately,” continues Sophie. “The beauty of AC Services is that nothing is too much trouble and the engineers have fully stocked vans so there is never a delay in waiting for parts.”
The Rational ovens are obviously used on a daily basis. “The appliances are completely reliable but no-one can foresee some of the variables that occur. The school operates five days a week as a day school with Saturday school for the senior pupils. Boarding at Lambrook is very flexible and enables children to board anything from 5 nights a week to 1 night here and there which means that there is no downtime for the ovens. With the help of AC Services, we make sure that the ovens are always kept in the best possible condition.”
Attitude is the one other thing that puts AC Services top of the list as far as Sophie is concerned. “It doesn’t matter when we call, what we need or how far the engineer is from us,” concludes Sophie, “from the ladies in the office who take the call to the engineers, there is always a friendly voice or a smile and service is exemplary.”
Lambrook School has an exemplary record academically and as far as cuisine goes, the food is top notch! A good chef and a good Rational oven maintained by AC Services is the winning combination!
Times are changing within the education market. Debate was raging on about the decision of the government to turn all schools into academies by 2020 until last week’s unforeseen u-turn. But the threat is still there with a shift from all to most.
Speculation is rife over the ongoing fate of local authorities, once the sole provider of budgets and control over schools. What it means is that schools and colleges will be increasingly responsible for their own budgeting.
This is all very well with items such as school equipment, paper, books and associated purchases. There are already established and specialist vendors for these types of materials. But when it comes to buying kitchen equipment, many schools and colleges are inexperienced and frankly, don’t know where best to turn.
The purchase of a catering appliance is vastly different from buying a domestic oven. And once the purchase has been made, it doesn’t end there. An oven has to be regularly serviced and maintained to prevent any unforeseen catastrophes occurring which, in schools and colleges, could mean a lot of pupils going hungry!
Since September 2014, all schools have to provide free school lunches for pupils who qualify. This has meant that educational establishments have been busier with kitchen refurbishment and upgrade than ever before.
Historically, AC Services (Southern) has been responsible for maintaining a number of Rational ovens within the region. Currently we have been requested to service 42 schools with some 70 appliances total across Gloucestershire on a contract that has recently been renewed.
But our experience of the educational sector’s needs is much wider ranging from Oxford colleges, private schools to FE colleges with many on one of our maintenance contracts .
According to Helen Hagger, MD at AC Services, one of the main priorities is educating the owners about the benefits of regular servicing.
“Many ovens may be in warranty still but they also need a regular service to make sure they are working properly and performing to their optimum levels,” she advises. “We are dedicated to working with our customers in the education sector to ensure that all schools and colleges comply with the standards for food that the government and other organisations demand.”
In addition, Rational is helping make life easier for cooks with the recent launch of a new app allowing users of the Rational SelfCookingCenter to operate the system from an iPhone or iPad. If connected to the same network, the screen content of the SelfCookingCenter is transferred and displayed in full to the remote device.
“This app is extremely useful to school cooks and head chefs who are juggling other responsibilities,” continues Helen. “As a long-term partner with Rational, we are doing our bit by ensuring that the ovens are serviced regularly.
We have a range of service packages to suit every budget, and our aim is to make owners and decision-makers schedule downtime for the appliances for maintenance. So whether you are primary school, academy, private or public school, university or further education establishment, as long as you are in our area we can help you.”
So give Helen and the team a call on 01454 322 222 to find out more.
For those who may be unaware, academies are run by a governing body and are independent from the local council. Not only can they follow a different curriculum, they can also run their own facilities, including catering.
Basically, academies are small businesses with the day-to-day running of the school overseen by the head teacher or principal, but they are overseen by individual charitable bodies called academy trusts and may be part of an academy chain.
Statistically, 2,075 of the 3,381 secondary schools in the UK are currently academies, and 2,440 of the 16,766 primary schools have academy status and the plan is to grant all of them academic status by 2020.
Other schools fall into the following categories: community schools, controlled by the local council; foundation schools, with more freedom to change the way they do things; grammar schools, run by the council, a foundation body or a trust; and special schools .
Whatever the status, schools are expected to provide food, and not just the pink custard and chocolate concrete that a generation of people associate with school dinners.
According to the Government guidelines, “food served in some schools and academies in England must meet the school food standards so that children have healthy, balanced diets”.
This must include high-quality meat, poultry or oily fish, fruit and vegetables, bread, other cereals and potatoes. It must not include drinks with added sugar, crisps, chocolate or sweets in school meals and vending.
So who is responsible for the food in schools? That falls under the remit of the school governors who have to ensure that a school lunch is provided for pupils where a meal is requested. There is no requirement that lunches must be hot but it is recommended that a hot meal should be available.
Finances and public accountability, therefore, are very much under scrutiny and it is down to the governing bodies to ensure that value for money and return on investment are met as well as national school food standards.
The catering arrangements within schools are vital. A number of schools employ external caterers, but for those wanting to balance the budget, investing in an appliance, such as the Rational oven range, can bring significant savings over the long term.
Investing in a new, modern kitchen and high quality catering equipment, can transform school catering services and the food quality of meals will increase as a result of more efficient catering equipment.
Governing bodies are strongly encouraged to work with the schools whether or not they are academies, to develop a whole school food policy in the school’s approach to its provision of food, food education (including practical cooking), the role of the catering team as part of the wider school team and the school’s strategy to increase the take-up of school places. With a Rational oven in place, the battle not only to achieve the national food standards, but to maintain them on a regular basis is not a difficult task.
As Christmas is at the end of the week, we’ve allowed the writer of our news a week off from the show reports, the case studies of our customers, the industry news, Rational ovens tips, suggested events and alternative food sourcing.
So with those in mind like AC Services, who are still working hard to deliver the season’s celebrations, she has written the following fun ode to hopefully bring a smile back to those who are flagging.
‘Twas the night before Christmas and throughout the land
Every oven from Rational was taking a stand.
Turkeys and geese were about to start squealing
And the vegetable mountains were in dire need of peeling.
“Enough is enough” said the leading head oven
We’ve been working all year and see what we’ve proven…
Perfect roasting and boiling and flawless menus
From small little cafes to top class venues.
But we’re knackered and worn out and we want a break too
So you cooks of the land, it’s your turn to stew!”
What a dilemma in kitchens across the land
Whose Xmas depended on Rational’s hand.
But our heroes stepped up at AC Services Southern
And without a thought for themselves, they approached every oven.
A tweak here, a twist there, and some TLC from the team
And the Rational ovens were restored to full steam.
The moral of the tale is take care of your appliance
Or face the consequence of their ill-timed defiance.
Simply call us or email or use the website
For a last minute service to avoid the plight
Of an undercooked turkey, or an overdone starter…
Happy Christmas from Rational’s foremost service partner!
All the staff at AC Services Southern wish everyone in pubs, restaurants, hotels, food service, schools, colleges and catering establishments in South West England and South Wales a Happy stress-free Christmas and a Prosperous 2016.