Driving school meals forward in Birmingham

Birmingham City Council is the largest local authority in the country and Cityserve, the City Council caterers, serve approximately 65,000 meals each day across more than 400 schools. Cityserve has a diverse customer base and consider it important that the school meals service is tailored to meet the needs of individual schools.

Working together 
Sheila Walker, Head of Direct Services, Birmingham City Council, said: “We think it is important to work with a supplier such as McCain that has an established and successful relationship with the education sector and through media advertising are widely recognised by parents and pupils alike. McCain is prepared to work with us on recipe and product development, providing a range of products that feature on our menus, including recipes and side dishes for main meals and break times.” 

Mike Driver, McCain Head of Marketing, explains how they do it: “We’re not just a supplier of potato products, we’re a solutions provider. Through our dedicated team of business managers, we do everything we can to work with our customers to provide solutions and drive uptake through support, advice, promotions, menu development, chef demonstrations, even new product development.” 

Sheila Walker adds: “We need versatile products to meet the varying demands of the schools within the City. McCain is aware of our budgetary constraints and provides us with products such as Simply Potato that pupils enjoy. Their products are suitable for both the chiller and freezer, reduce preparation times and help eliminate waste.” 

Meeting the challenge 
It is clear that the Birmingham operation is thriving under challenging circumstances. Mike Driver said: “Keeping pupils in school is the first step, so offering menu variety and meeting school food legislation is a big challenge for school caterers. The McCain Alternatives range has been developed to help deliver this. Furthermore, we have developed a recipe book using these products with colour photographs and nutritional analyses.” 

Sheila Walker explains: “As a catering provider many factors influence uptake and generate turnover. McCain has contributed to our service by providing products that support compliance with the legislative school food standards. McCain products are easy to prepare and diverse as they can be used individually or within a recipe. McCain supports us with chef demonstrations that illustrate how easy it is to use products such as Simply Potato to deliver serving opportunities across the whole school day. “The demonstrations really help get everyone on board and up to speed. The pupils love the theatre of the demonstrations and sampling the food. It also assures the catering manager and their teams that certain products are worth putting on the menu.” 

Sheila Walker concludes: “McCain works closely with us to understand some of the issues that we’re currently facing. It is this added value that we appreciate.”