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Foodservice Cateys 2018: Catering Manager of the Year – Melanie Cooke, ISS Food Services

19 October 2018 by
Foodservice Cateys 2018: Catering Manager of the Year – Melanie Cooke, ISS Food Services

Sponsored by Bunzl Catering & Hospitality Division

Melanie Cooke is the catering manager at Radbroke Hall in Knutsford, Cheshire, which houses Barclays' technology centre, where some 4,400 employees develop payment security and payment processing systems.

She joined the team when ISS won the Barclays contract in 2013, and in 2016 was promoted from managing a single unit site to taking on Radbroke as catering manager, responsible for a team of 36 serving an average of 500 hot main meals daily, alongside two coffee shops, a deli bar and retail shop, as well as running hospitality and events and an alfresco barbecue area with a wood-fired pizza oven.

The site has gone through significant change over the past 12 months, moving from around a 25% contractor-based workforce to a training centre for the new technology centre in India. With a change in customer profile, Cooke developed a new offer that led to a 15% growth in sales, thanks to initiatives such as fun days with family-friendly menus and an annual fireworks night with 2,500 attendees. The clever introduction of pre-payment incentives and fast-track payment, which was sure to appeal to the employees working on this very technology for Barclays, also boosted sales.

Cooke's imprint is on everything that Radbroke Hall has achieved in the last 18 months. She has taken the integrated model to a new level, turning stakeholder meetings into the creation of food-focus forums with a panel engaged in delivery. This has led to the creation of high-revenue drivers such as pay-day steak day and tech weekend hospitality menus capturing sales previously lost to takeaway orders.

Many initiatives have been introduced to ensure that sales opportunities aren't missed. For instance, the on-site coffee bars have been extended to include a full food offer for customers who would not have walked over to the restaurant, while a new Heat Me range has been introduced to market chilled ready meals containing fewer than 500 calories to capture customers that were previously bringing in their own meals due to opening hours.

All of these new products have been promoted through full marketing campaigns with posters, sampling and themed counters to create excitement and drive spend per head. This has moved concept delivery from 12% of sales to 57% of sales. If all that wasn't enough, Cooke has added mobile coffee carts and kitchen equipment to allow catering in pop-up locations across the campus.

Meanwhile, she has used the reward and recognition tools at her disposal from the employee survey to ensure staff are engaged and happy, while also creating a culture of cross-training and site swaps to encourage development alongside formal training.

What the judges said

"They haven't sacrificed their people for financial objectives and have showed impressive net promoter scores. There is lots of innovation to increases sales, going way beyond the expected. Clearly a strong all-round manager."

Lin Dickens, marketing director, Bartlett Mitchell

"A great example of the breadth of skills required to be a great general manager. Financial success, of course, but balanced with innovation, people development and going over and above on a daily basis."

Emma Williams, director of operations, Green & Fortune


Rebecca Armstrong 
Genuine Dining Co

Melanie Cooke 
ISS Food Services

Geoff Moyle 
The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Past winners

2017 Paul Bate, Amadeus

2016 Murray Soper, Bartlett Mitchell

2015 Emma Williams, Green & Fortune

2014 Jamie Stevenson, BaxterStorey

2013 Renier Oberholzer, Harbour & Jones

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