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The idea behind this, which limits the caterer's market to about 12,000 schools, is to ensure it can deliver truly fresh food. In fact, 94% of food delivered to its schools is fresh, and the insistence upon an Ofsted rating of good or better is because, in Pabulum's estimation, schools with higher ratings are more likely to have a real culture of food. It is perhaps this approach that has enabled the company to over-achieve on its new business wins by 24% of target in 2016, with 11 new sites opening in April 2016 at the end of the business's financial year, which bodes well for its 2016-17 financial results.
Contract retention is also high, and an improvement on where it stood just three years ago - in 2013 it was 63%, whereas in 2016 it had lifted to 93%. In addition to a high level of contract retention, staff retention is also key to Pabulum. Recently, the business completed an employment survey, which showed that 92% of respondents said they had enough tools to do their day job and nearly 96% said they had enough to do their job well. Meanwhile, nearly 90% said there was a commitment to continually improve Pabulum's performance and 93% said they were happy working for Pabulum and wanted to be working for them in a year's time.
The judges of this award were also impressed by a raft of innovations to help drive the company's presence in the education sector. Among them are an annual awards scheme that, unlike those in a lot of other firms, make both the company's staff and its school clients the judges. Then there's the implementation of the 'App', now available in 20 schools, which is school-specific with information on menus, forthcoming promotions, links to the school website and Pabulum's website. This app goes beyond catering as it also facilitates access to school-specific Twitter accounts, Facebook pages, school calendars, news stories, a parent portal and even the ability to contact parents directly without having to use emails.
Pabulum is also a supporter of the Red Balloon charity, which helps children who have been traumatised by bullying or other events, and aims to enable them to feel safe, regain their self-esteem and get back on an academic track. Managing director Nelson Williams leads by example in Pabulum and is frequently to be found in schools, talking directly to young customers and their teachers, as well as using focus groups to get feedback. It was this engagement, combined with commitment to fresh food, that made Pabulum the 2016 winner of the Education Caterer of the Year Foodservice Catey.
What the judges said
"Pabulum has made a great effort in delivering fresh food and a good food culture. It has excellent healthy eating initiatives and I love that the managing director holds focus groups with kids."
Linda Cregan, Children's Food Trust
"Pabulum is clearly committed to excellence in a very focused manner, with strong growth and an impressive improvement in contract retention."
Emma Williams, Green & Fortune
- Bridgwater College
- The Brookwood Partnership
- 2015 Holroyd Howe
- 2014 ISS Facility Services Education
- 2013 Elior UK
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