Friday, 29 November 2013

Ready for free school meals for all infants? Support is on offer from the Children’s Food Trust

With the government’s free school meals for infants plan gathering pace, we are delighted to welcome the Children’s Food Trust’s Jayne Greatorex to the PKL Blog, to discuss what the introduction of free school meals for children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 will mean for primary schools, and ways in which the Trust can help schools prepare for any changes to their current catering and dining operations.

Jayne writes:

Jayne Greatorex of the Children's Food Trust
The Children's Food Trust's
Jayne Greatorex
If you’re based in an infant school, have you been thinking about how you’ll get ready to offer free school meals to all pupils next September?

At the Children’s Food Trust, we’ve spent years helping schools on kitchen and dining issues.  If you think you’ll need help to get ready for offering free school meals for infants, contact us for advice.

This policy’s a big change so we’ve pulled together our top tips to help your school get started on preparations.

Things to consider include making sure you know your numbers, and how an increase in ‘bums on seats’ will affect your catering team and your existing infrastructure. 

If you already offer school meals, you might want to gather some feedback from pupils who currently use the service to find out what’s good and what can be improved in your current offer. This will help you make the most of what you’re doing well, and to resolve any issues before next September.

You might also want to think about how you will communicate with parents, who will be keen to hear more about how your school is preparing and what it will mean for their child.

If you’re looking for help, our Learning Network is the national hub for learning and debate around all things to do with children's food, including e-learning courses which you can complete at a time and place which suits you, webcasts on topical issues around children’s food and a forum to share ideas and best practice.

The Learning Network is here to help schools, caterers, local authorities, early years settings and the public health sector, and is relevant for head teachers, school business managers, catering staff, school cooks, nursery staff, child-minders, public health professionals, Local Authority staff and many more.

As an early Christmas present, we’re offering you £25 off Learning Network membership, if you book before the end of term (20 December 2013). Just click on this link to register for free and browse the site. To become a full member, you’ll need to purchase a membership and don’t forget to quote ‘PKL’ for your Christmas discount voucher when going to the checkout.

More Information

If you need any support please do not hesitate to contact us at and one of our expert advisors will call you back.

Free School Meals for Infants

For more information about free school meals in primary schools, Jayne provides an overview here in this short video from the Children’s Food Trust’s Learning Network. Click here to view the webcast.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Speed: How PKL can save you time and money

“Time is money” – Benjamin Franklin

This is never more true than in the world of construction, where time on site drives up overhead costs, and delays can stall the generation of revenue. What can be even more frustrating is when this is a “back of house” or support function such as a kitchen and dining facility. 

Over the past 25 years, our PKL Transworld division has been involved in a large number of catering infrastructure projects around the world where previous experiences of delays have led clients to contact PKL for help. We’ve also worked with clients where concern over programme deadlines for rigger camps, refineries or construction worker camp kitchen and dining facilities has led to PKL being called in to get the job done.

Quite often, we are contacted after a client in a remote location has already tried to source their kitchen locally and has ended up with a significant cost and programme overrun. The savings hoped for by sourcing locally have not been realised and the whole process has become quite painful. We are focussed on providing cost and programme certainty for clients who want to focus on other core projects, knowing that the kitchen facilities will just sort themselves out. We can help clients spend their energy and money on more mission-critical areas.

There are several ways to reduce programme on site:

  • Faster supply
  • Concurrent activity
  • Get it right first time
  • Use a competent and experienced team

PKL is able to save time through having ex-rental stock available for immediate deployment; we have 900 units and about 10,000 items of catering equipment under management around the world. The design process is shortened by using tried and tested designs that can very easily be tweaked by our in-house design team.

While we prepare and ship the kitchen modules and units, we also advise clients on the services and foundations specifications so that a high level of concurrent activity can be achieved. Because they arrive with almost all mechanical and electrical work complete, PKL units require only a couple of weeks on site (in some cases just a few days) to complete and be ready for use. We can either supply a complete installation team or a project advisor to work with a local team to complete the installation. 

Thanks to our extensive experience in the world of international sporting events, such as the Olympic Games, we have a company culture of completing works to a demanding and immoveable deadline. Beyond that, we help with keeping the kitchen going by providing a spares pack, full operating and maintenance manuals, planned preventative maintenance and online and telephone technical support.

We do what we can to make the kitchen our problem, and not the client’s. If we can save our customers time, energy and money that they can then direct into their core business, then we feel like we have done a good job.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

National School Meals Week – PKL Reminisces

This week is National School Meals Week, which got us thinking about our favourite school meals from our own school days. Having taken a very scientific survey of the office, we discovered some rather interesting trends. We fear that some of these answers show our age, but here are some of our responses to the question:

“What was your favourite school meal?”

Spam fritters followed by jam sponge pudding and custard. I also have fond memories of the Christmas pudding which had a real sixpence hidden inside.
Peter Schad, Commercial Director

Fish fingers, chips and peas.
Natalie, IT Support

Veggie lasagne.
Andy, Graphic Designer

Jacket potato with cheese. The flapjack was brilliant too and only cost 12p!
Ed, Business Development

Christmas dinner!

Alastair, CAD Designer

Will, Financial Controller

Steak pie. At least, I think it was steak…
Ed, IT Manager

Chicken fricassee followed by jam roly poly.
Lynda, Finance

Fish and chips on a Friday, and the Christmas dinners.
Sam, Marketing Manager

I don’t know, but I was a plate monitor so I got to sit at the head of the table!
Sue, Office Manager

Chocolate crunch with pink custard.
Linda, Finance

Chocolate crunch with pink custard on a Friday.
Ian, KitchenPod Sales Manager

At this point, the whole office started enthusiastically reminiscing about chocolate crunch with pink custard. It appears that this was something of a phenomenon in schools across the country. There was quite some debate about how and why the custard was pink, though everyone agreed wholeheartedly that this was the best pudding they’ve ever eaten. Discussion became so animated that we decided to give up and abandon the survey. As we did though, our colleague Mike who looks after our Mid West Catering Equipment division called up. As a parting question, we asked him about his favourite school meal:

Savoury mince with fried bread… and chocolate crunch with pink custard!
Mike, Mid West Catering Equipment Sales

We despair.

As you can probably tell, most of us grew up in a time before nutrition was a top priority in schools, and when discussion turned to our least favourite school meal memories (many involving limp, grey cabbage and thick custard skin), we’re very glad that times have changed!

If you’re busy working to implement the new School Food Plan in your school, you might find it useful to read our 8 Point Plan for Schools which we wrote a few months ago in response to the Plan's announcement. We also outline a number of catering solutions for schools, as well as funding information, on our recently relaunched website.

We hope you’re all enjoying National School Meals Week, and hope it’s successful in promoting your school meals service. Please do give us a ring if you’d like any advice on solutions to help boost your ability to offer great school meals; we have a range of options including KitchenPods, Food Cubes and our new KitchenFM for Schools product which enables you to contract hire all your catering equipment.

Now, we’re off to look up chocolate crunch and pink custard recipes…