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Inflation is hitting every individual, business and organisation in unexpected and unequal ways. After years of living in a low-inflation economy, many people have never experienced anything like it.

And for caterers in public sectors, including schools, care homes and hospitals – passing on price increases to customers is not a practical option.

The Times Educational Supplement recently reported that school managers and catering operations resist taking the route of private sector establishments such as restaurants, pubs and cafes and simply increasing meal prices. In an environment where families with young children may be already struggling financially, it does not feel right to put up prices, further challenging their weekly budget.

The result is that schools and colleges face losing money on their catering operation, forcing them to cover the shortfall out of reserves or look for budget cuts elsewhere in the school operations. Neither option is sustainable over the medium term or easy to execute in the short term.

During the pandemic, it was evident that more schools and colleges looked to move their catering in-house to regain control over costs and improve flexibility. As a result, Pelican has been working with more in-house catering teams, supporting them out of the pandemic as supply chain issues magnified.

Creative ideas

How can Pelican, as a procurement specialist, help out? While the team is known for helping clients generate savings by buying better, there are many other ways to help improve efficiency while customers – or pupils – still get tasty meals and great nutrition.

For example, working in collaboration with other schools to increase volume, centralising purchasing, consolidating suppliers, and reducing delivery drops are some of the strategies used to drive the price down.

Switching to cheaper alternatives where possible is another great way to establish savings. We have recently helped a client reduce their meat spend by £20,000 a year simply by supporting a switch from fresh meat to frozen supplies. The client initially insisted that fresh meat was an essential quality of their dishes – but blind taste tests showed the frozen alternative tasted equally as good. The switch has also improved the flexibility of stock and deliveries.

Reviewing menu planning and considering seasonal fruit and vegetables is one way, as produce is always cheaper in season. More innovative menus can also, for example, double up on a vegetarian option that also meets vegan requirements if both need to feature on a menu.

Automate if possible

Then there is automation. Pelican has spent the last decade developing the Pi online software suite, an efficiency tool that helps users do more in less time. Pi modules cover everything from ordering and paying suppliers more swiftly to managing menus, allergens, stock and waste, and so much more!

Another recent focus is on waste, not least as new legislation is heading to the statute books, requiring large business catering operations to measure and manage their waste. Pelican has developed a new add-on module to its Pi system precisely designed to help caterers meet the new requirements – but also helping to drive savings by reducing waste.

We can help in many ways and are happy to share our expertise with you.

If you are looking for support, expertise or inspiration as you battle to reduce catering costs, why not contact Pelican at today to discuss how we can help?

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