Michael Hales of Juniper Ventures wins Public Sector Caterer Award, sponsored by Bidfood
Michael Hales has been in public sector catering for over 30 years and his impact in that time has been impressive. He joined the sector in 1989, working for the Inner London Education Authority in Tower Hamlets, and has supported his customers and teams through a multitude of challenges.
Having worked his way up the ranks in operations, quality assurance and contract management, he eventually spent 12 years as head of contract services in Tower Hamlets. Through his ability to negotiate and lobby he introduced a free school meals scheme for KS1 students ahead of the government's Universal Infant Free School Meals initiative. He then convinced local politicians that a hot and nutritious meal each day brought many positive outcomes for young people and the funding was moved to cover the costs of KS2 student meals at the time the government also introduced its scheme.
After being appointed to the role of managing director of Newham Catering and Cleaning Services in 2016, which went on to become a Local Authority Trading Company, Hales ensured every aspect of the business was competitive and gained the trust of his customers and some 950 staff.
In 2018 Hales began trading as Juniper Ventures and has since had success in winning business in Barking & Dagenham, Tower Hamlets, Islington and Hackney.
The pandemic required the business to diversify and, in January 2021, a Health and Safety Advisory Service was launched, predominantly aimed at schools. Within six months it had secured contracts with 55 schools and it continues to grow.
In the past 12 months Hales and his team at Juniper Ventures have launched an innovative Anti-Microbial Electrostatic Spraying service to all customers to make their environments Covid-safe and has introduced plant-based cleaning chemicals. A reduction on plastic packaging planned for 2022 will see a saving of 52 tonnes of plastic waste and 352 delivery vehicles off the road.
Hales is also well-known in the sector for his years of involvement with local school authority catering association LACA, including his time as national chair in 2018-2019, when the association celebrated its own 30 years.
A force to be reckoned with and an ambassador for the sector, Hales is still contributing to and improving the environment of public sector catering and, in his own words ,"will not stop his work until all KS3 pupils are also entitled to a meal each day".
What the judges said
"Excellent submission with some amazing evidence of a huge inspirational contribution to the sector. Particular mention must go to the work on carbon footprint and plant-based cleaning chemicals." – Sue Cawthray
"This is a great submission and clearly sets out the demonstrable contribution Michael has made to the public sector. He is an ambassador for the sector and this award should recognise such people." – Matthew White
- Michael Hales, Juniper Ventures
- Raouf Mansour, Ashford and St Peter's Hospitals NHS Trust in collaboration with Neller Davies and BM
- Sue Cawthray, chief executive, Harrogate Neighbours, chair, National Association of Care Catering
- Mark Davies, managing director, ISS Food Services
- Andy Jones, owner, AJ Associates
- Vic Laws, director, AVL Consultancy
- Alison McCree, associate director of facilities, County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust
- Alison Shedlock, assistant director estates and facilities – head of campus services, the University of Manchester
- Matthew White, director of campus commerce, University of Reading