WINNER:Cambridgeshire Catering and Cleaning Services
Sponsored by: KLIX, a Mars Drinks brand
When Jamie Oliver exposed unhealthy meals being served up in schools in 2005, Cambridgeshire Catering and Cleaning Services (CCS) began to feel the brunt.
Some worried parents stopped their children eating school dinners, and soon the organisation was facing a £1m deficit. Dramatic action was needed.
That came with the appointment of Richard Ware as CCS head of service in November 2007. He embarked on a £64,000 turnaround programme with AVF Marketing - the firm that had been providing the CCS website. The aim was to increase meal numbers by a minimum of 200,000 in the 2008-09 financial year and break even.
Market research was carried out on headteachers, parents, pupils and catering staff. School caterers began receiving basic marketing training so they could run their own promotions in school. Meanwhile, the firms went about restoring parental confidence by providing more information in the form of menu leaflets, newsletters and a video that could be viewed online, and using digital marketing tools via the MySchoolLunch.co.uk (MSL) website.
To get staff buy-in, a conference for 250 catering supervisors was held at a four-star hotel. Here, market research results, marketing training and an explanation of the "10 out of 10" campaign - designed to increase meal numbers by 10 meals per day at each school over a three-year period to eliminate the £1m deficit - were presented.
Every caterer was given two coffee mugs with the "10 out of 10" logo inscribed. One was for the caterer and the other for the headteacher. In addition, each school caterer was given two sets of MSL-branded bookmarks. The first set, aimed at teachers, held the password for the teaching resources on the website. The second set was for every child in school and, again, the bookmarks showed a password - this time for the online Five-a-day Fan Club, which has stories, competitions and information about school meals and flags up the importance of eating a healthy diet.
Primary school menu boards were also introduced in areas where parents congregate, and salad carts were brought in at schools.
The results speak for themselves. CCS is now on course to break even, as more than 200,000 meals will be served during the current financial year. The MSL website, which scooped the Innovation and Interactive Category in the 2008 Caterersearch.com Web Awards, has also seen a 115.8% increase in visitors from 21,997 in 2007-08 to 47,429 in 2008-09.
Ann Elliott, managing director of marketing consultancy Elliott People and a judge of the award, said the project had very clear criteria based on commercial success.
"I felt that the project team really did want this enterprise to succeed and to deliver sales, profit and new business wins back to the authority. This wasn't a marketing exercise for the sake of it; it had to succeed in every dimension," said Elliott.
"I also admired their truly holistic approach to their business issue. They involved every interested party, seeking their input and opinions - and acting on them - throughout. They based their approach on the feedback from well-constructed research, which is absolutely the right way to do it."
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