Andy Jones is a man with an unparalleled insight into catering provision in the healthcare sector, so when he says that the catering equipment industry has a fundamental role to play in improving food standards it deserves to be taken seriously. As service development director at catering services specialist ISS, and a recent past chairman of the Hospital Caterers Association (HCA), Andy views the market from a unique vantage point and believes that closer collaboration between kitchen buyers and planners will be needed as the healthcare sector drives towards some very specific goals over the coming years.
“We are seeing more focus on ‘sustainability’ via the Government Buying standards and DEFRA’s ‘Plan for Public Procurement: Balanced Scorecard for Public Food Procurement’ strategy, as well as carbon neutral products, all of which caterers in the NHS are well-equipped to deliver, but we need the supply chain to be in place and work with us on the information and products required to meet this, and this is where the gap is,” asserts Andy, who has just become the chair of PS100, the body that campaigns on public sector catering matters.
Hospital food may have acquired a reputation that has proved difficult to shake off over the years, but companies such as ISS are working extremely hard to change that by creating nutritious and delicious menus developed by top chefs. Customers are certainly calling on caterers to deliver healthier options in their restaurants these days and that’s why diligent providers are paying close attention to their infrastructure. “We have to stop looking at the cost of equipment in the short term and stop going with the cheapest option but look at the need, the whole lifecycle and whether it saves time and delivers better results,” says Andy about the healthcare sector’s approach to kitchen procurement.
Most importantly, though, the food offer has to dictate the kind of catering equipment specified, not the other way round. “We need suppliers to understand the complexity of how a hospital works, and patients’ needs can be diverse depending on the type of patient. Elderly wards, for instance, will have a different need and approach to, say, maternity or surgical patients. One size does not fit all,” he concludes.
“We have to stop looking at the cost of equipment in the short term and going with the cheapest option”