Fergus Chambers

12 May 2005
Fergus Chambers

Overall ranking: 74

Contract caterers ranking: 13


As director of direct and care services for Glasgow City Council, Fergus Chambers is responsible for a £119m-turnover organisation with 9,100 staff involved in catering, cleaning, janitorial and home care services. They look after more than 300 schools and some 8,600 Glaswegians in need of home care.

The division also provides facilities management services along with external catering at museums, sports facilities and events under the Encore brand.

Career guide

Chambers, a Glaswegian in his late forties, gained an OND in hotel management at the Glasgow College of Food Technology before entering the contract catering sector with CCG and Sutcliffe, which are now both part of Compass's Eurest division.

He then spent two years with coffee supplier Douwe Egberts in Scotland and London before taking on his current role in October 1995.

What we think

Chambers pioneered a new vision of healthy but popular school meals that turned around an ailing operation into one serving twice as many people in half the time. In its first year, it attracted visits from more than 125 education authorities and has since been widely adopted elsewhere.

Chambers borrowed the techniques of the high streets to transform school canteens into high-tech, fast-food style Fuel Zones. They boosted overall up-take from 26% to 65% in a single-year and increased the take-up of free meals from below 50% to more than 75%.

Cash sales soared by 324%, staff productivity increased by 180%, average spend per pupil rose from 25p to 63p, and daily turnover reached £4,600 in some schools.

Fuel Zones provided an attractive environment with snappy uniforms, bright colours and piped music. Multi-service points and the use of cashless swipe cards (now used in more than half of Scotland's secondary schools) eliminated the queues that were the key turn-off for pupils.

Chambers achieved this without sacrificing healthy eating principles. Despite the McDonald's style counters, the food options included baguettes, stir-fries and salads. "Just because it's fast food, doesn't mean it's bad food," said one Catey judge.

He also introduced a new central production kitchen to provide halal and vegetarian Asian meals, and developed a chain of commercial restaurants and cafés in parks, museums and city squares.

Chambers served on the Scottish Executive's expert panel on school meals which led to the 2002 Hungry for Success campaign. This initiative pumped an extra £63m into Scotland's school meals service to meet nutritional targets by 2004 for primary schools and by 2006 for secondary schools.

Chambers has been an active ambassador in raising the profile and appeal of the food service sector. He is a member of bodies such as the HCIMA, European Catering Associations, Scottish Local Authority Caterers Association, Association of Civic Hospitality, and Association of Service Solutions in Scotland (which he chairs).

Chambers is also chairman of Springboard Scotland and a founder trustee of the Hospitality Industry Trust Scotland, which helps struggling ex-industry employers and supplies bursaries to encourage youngsters to join the industry. He is chairman of Springboard Scotland.

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