Food service operations: successfully transforming Stowe School

Sponsored: Debbie Kelly-Greaves, head of food services and hospitality at Stowe School, shares how they successfully transformed food service operations


With around 800 students – of which more than 600 are full time boarders – an important function of Stowe School is its food service. It’s a vibrant operation that takes a great deal of organisation. Debbie confirms: “We have around 60 members of staff in our team and we operate from 6am to 8:30pm, seven days a week. We produce and serve, on average, 12,250 meals a week across three services – and outside of the school term, we support our commercial event business.”

Having been with Stowe for a year, Debbie was keen to introduce some changes to the in-house catering operation to help create efficiencies: “I’m used to operating systems, however here, there were still many manual processes in place, which was cumbersome. There was no central cost analysis for the procurement process, orders were written down, which provided no traceability or transparency. I was very keen to change this.”

Procurement transformation

Having contacted three procurement firms, after various presentations and analysis of the school’s current processes, the team were keen to further engage with Pelican Procurement. Confirms Debbie: “We liked that Pelican was very straight forward: it does what it says on the tin! They were very honest, knowledgeable and we felt we could relate with them on a one-to-one level. We liked that they really listened to us and what we were trying to achieve.”

“Not only could we see they could support us with getting the best from our suppliers, but their Pi system would give us the centralised control that we needed.

“The quality of fresh meat and seafood was paramount to us, and as part of this process, Pelican organised quality benchmarking and blind taste sampling of important lines. On completion of the process, trading commenced in early 2020 of the selected products and suppliers, which had resulted in an 8% financial saving.“

A digitised approach

“If I think back to what we were doing 12-months ago to what we have now, we have completely transformed our process from a manual set-up to fully online. With Pi we have one digital platform that provides us with a recipe system, a stock system, transparent budgeting, an ordering system that includes our approved products, and it’s given us complete control.

“We used to have members of staff inputting information, going through multiple paper invoices, and if we needed to query anything or make any changes, it was hard work.  The beauty of the Pi system is that it is enabling us to go paperless. A paper-trail isn’t needed, as everything related to our orders, costs, menus and stock is all in one place.

“Now, we look in Pi and can see the invoice straight away. We can draw down numerous professional reports, download information, make adjustments, send information as PDFs or Excel. We also have the ability to calculate the precise cost of our dishes, and be completely transparent regarding allergen data, which we can pass on to our customers with confidence.

“With Pelican, there are no false promises; everything they have said they would do, they have done – and with real honesty, efficiency and in partnership with us. We know we are getting the products we need, at the quality we demand, for a good price and with KPIs in place for delivery and service standards.  And as for the Pi system, it speaks for itself; it’s put me and the wider team in complete control.”

Read the full case study here


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