Sponsored by Pelican Procurement
Packed with experience, enthusiasm and ideas, the Gracewell Healthcare team look to maintain quality, seek opportunities and innovate.
For the 1,050 residents that live across Gracewell's 21 sites, their efforts have paid off. The company's catering services are overseen by Christopher Dean as director of dining, former restaurateur and registered nurse Sophie Murray as nutritionist, and executive chef Giles Conroy, whose background includes stints at Michelin-starred restaurants. At local level, each site has a head chef who also acts as a front of house manager to ensure restaurant-level customer service is delivered.
The panel was especially impressed by Gracewell's objective to spend every penny of its per resident per day budget, which at more than £5 is at the upper end of the scale for the industry. Dean has the job of spending the whole of the £1.8m annual food budget as part of his yearly objectives.
The financial achievements Gracewell seeks come through procurement. It ensures it is buying as effectively as possible without compromising on quality and freshness. When savings are achieved through tenders, benchmarking and contract management, the spare budget goes to additional dining projects and higher standards rather than the bottom line.
Innovation is central to the evolution of the caterer's food offer. In recent years it has introduced Nemi milk, which is naturally enriched with selenium to support immune systems, and new nutrition and hydration protocols.
Nutritional champion roles were introduced to ensure that care and catering work hand in hand at sites, reducing malnutrition rates and the conflict that can occur when disciplines don't fully understand each other's role.
The position of super chef was introduced to provide local support for chefs while also helping to develop skills and confidence.
Indeed, the company's food focus, good working conditions and working hours attract talented chefs. And staff retention is excellent thanks to in-house development programmes and the encouragement of staff input into new menu options and participation in company-wide and industry chef competitions.
This year saw the first Gracewell chef reach the National Association of Care Catering's (NACC) Care Cook of the Year finals. Gracewell has also worked with a specialist speech and language therapist to trial proposed texture descriptors as part of the International Dysphagia Diet Standardisation Initiative.
Bought by Sunrise Senior Living in 2014, Gracewell consistently operates at 90%, with some sites even boasting waiting lists. Meanwhile an ongoing building programme means the group is set to grow.
What the judges said
"Christopher heads up a team of passionate, dedicated healthcare professionals who are committed to service excellence in a tough and competitive sector."
Tim Sturk, BaxterStorey
"This is a terrific story that is utterly customer-focused. Gracewell is striving to achieve excellence at every opportunity."
Roger Kellow, Hobart
Robin Comerford, Elior UK
2016 St Andrew's Healthcare
2015 Sunrise Senior Living
2014 ISS Healthcare
2013 Elior UK