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Mark Davies has led the ISS UK Food Services business to impressive commercial success while making a significant cultural impact on the school meals industry.
The judges noted his efforts to volunteer ISS for new trial initiatives and to support organisations and campaigns to improve school food, such as the Food for Life catering mark and supporting the fight to save universal infant free school meals.
As managing director at ISS UK Food Services, one of the first things Davies implemented was the Food for Life catering mark, which guarantees the use of sustainable ingredients and meals cooked from scratch. His approach saw partnerships with clients thrive and meal numbers rocket.
He has also implemented a series of professional standards within the team, with a learning and development programme (iLearn) as well as employee engagement and development practices, raising the calibre of the workforce and the overall food culture in ISS schools.
Davies has been behind two concepts: Feeding Excellence Every Day (FEED), which looks at a primary school pupil's experience, from entering the dining hall to clearing and leaving; and Tiller & Hobs, developed for secondary schools to provide a high street offer which focuses on ‘ecotherapy'-inspired environments, with a focus on health and wellbeing. The concept was shared at the LACA conference.
Davies and his team have enabled some significant contract wins with local education authorities that previously operated through direct service organisations. He has overseen the transfer of hundreds of employees, which has seen enhanced service provision and improved partnerships with more than 150 schools, as well as retention of the living wage for all employees, and the delivery of savings for clients.
In November 2019 Davies was rewarded by LACA with the Roger Davis Outstanding Achievement Award. More recently he has been recognised for his work with Defra on its Brexit taskforce and through his membership of the Bite Back 2030 campaign, which focuses on tackling childhood obesity, as well as his work with the School Food Committee.
At the beginning of this year the ISS school catering business had a turnover of £45m, a long way from 2010, when it stood at £8m. The organisation now feeds more than 110,000 children every school day, and has gone from catering for just 160 schools to more than 500.
In his award entry, Davies' colleagues said: "His ability to understand his customers and create solutions which are right for their needs is truly impressive. Considering school meals through the eyes of children and creating a whole service excellence concept is a simple yet unique approach to school meals."
What the judges said
"Mark's ethos is good food, quality products and ensuring his team understand what the customer wants. Mark has always been super-passionate." – Andy Jones
"Considering Mark was not a caterer when he originally entered the sector, he has accomplished significant improvements. His promotion to managing director of its B&I company will be great gain for them but a loss to the public sector." – Vic Laws
"Mark's enthusiasm shines through. He leads by example and has become a well-respected advocate for educational catering, placing the student at the heart the business." – Craig Smith
- Mark Davies, ISS UK Food Services
- Suzanne Fisher, Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
- Chris Neale, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust
- Alison Shedlock, The University of Manchester
- Beverley Baker, Board member, Lead Association for Caterers in Education (LACA)
- Sue Cawthray, national chair, National Association of Care Catering
- Andy Jones, AJ Associates
- Vic Laws, consultant, AVL Consultancy
- Neel Radia, training academy officer, National Association of Care Catering
- Craig Smith, chair, Hospital Caterers Association
- Preston Walker, chef/director, Oak House Residential Home, Rutland