Secondary school pupils believe the quality, value and range of school dinner options all need to improve, exclusive research conducted for Caterer has revealed.
The survey of more than 7,000 UK pupils aged 11 to 18, carried out during the past year by consultancy the Litmus Partnership, identified and scored 11 key areas in terms of importance to pupils. By then analysing the "satisfaction gap" - looking at the difference between importance and how satisfied individuals actually are - a truer picture of what matters most to pupils emerges.
While value for money was rated as the third most important factor by pupils, gap analysis revealed it was in fact the most vital area. Quality and taste of cooked food was second, standard of hygiene third and choice fourth after gap analysis.
Despite the controversy surrounding the introduction of nutrient-based standards for school meals in secondary schools in England this September, gap analysis clearly shows that qualitative areas of the school meals service remain further away from meeting pupils' expectations than the delivery of healthier food options.
Tim Cookson, chairman of the Litmus Partnership, said: "The exposure of today's school generation to the retail food offer has increased their expectations of the midday school meal service and leads to inevitable comparison with what is available on the high street. Value for money is key to the discerning young adult.
"Despite all the hype about healthy eating, perhaps surprisingly, this aspect of school food service is performing pretty well overall in the eyes of the student consumers."
*For more on this issue, see our education focus in next week's Caterer*.
THE SATISFACTION GAP
The difference between importance and satisfaction:
|- Value for money||- 3.6||- 3rd|
|- Quality and taste of cooked food||- 2.4||- 2nd|
|- Standard of hygiene||- 2.3||- 1st|
|- Choice/range||- 2.1||- 5th|
|- Appropriate portion sizes||- 2.1||- 6th|
|- Appearance of the food||- 1.9||- 8th|
|- Positive attitude of kitchen/ serving staff||- 1.8||- 4th|
|- Display of daily/weekly menus||- 1.5||- 10th|
|- Range of healthy options||- 1.4||- 7th|
|- Fresh fruit is always available||- 1.2||- 9th|
|- Variety of specialised diets||- 1.0||- 11th|
Source: Litmus Partnership
By Chris Druce
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