A Masterclass in University Catering

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University of Huddersfield has always been an institution with students’ needs at its heart. However, centred in a large city and surrounded by competing high street chains, it was struggling to provide a catered option that really appealed to students and convinced them to stay onsite at mealtimes.

Michaela, catering operations manager at University of Huddersfield, explained, “The students here want fresh food, quickly and Big Al’s range fitted this criteria. When I was first introduced to the range I felt it was exactly what our students had been crying out for.”

The university remained committed in its quest to provide innovative food concepts that wouldn’t stretch what is already a very tight budget for students. This has been one of the factors that made Big Al’s such a perfect fit at Huddersfield; the range is simple to prepare, can be cooked to frozen and doesn’t necessitate any expensive equipment, cooking perfectly in a microwave, meaning the universities can price each item competitively.

Michaela continued to say, “It was important that my staff don’t need to learn any additional skills to be able to serve up Big Al’s range effectively.”

Big Al’s have helped transform the food offer at University in Huddersfield with more than just an injection of delicious burger, pizza and hot dog solutions. It’s one thing to offer great food but catching the eye of students can be a whole other story. Millennials have grown up immersed in social media and surrounded by global food brands and, as such, have notoriously high expectations when it comes to visually appealing offers.

Speaking about the need for a fresh, vibrant look to entice students, Michaela commented “Big Al’s branding of the Mill Café has been really well received by students who are excited to try the new dishes each day and I firmly believe the look and feel of the café has been greatly improved since Big Al’s Foodie concept was introduced.”

Big Al’s worked alongside Michaela and the university to assist with branding, sampling sessions with the students, right through to product launch. By getting as close to the venue as possible with regards to improved communications and market feedback, Big Al’s was able to provide a bespoke service tailored to University of Huddersfield and its needs.

The collaboration has been a great success, with increased footfall, food sales and uptake of the university’s overall food offer since introducing Big Al’s to the Mill Café. With the Big Al’s range requiring only a microwave for simple preparation, Michaela has been able to introduce hot food options in smaller venues throughout the campus where this was not previously possible.

“We have introduced Big all’s range into smaller food outlets like the studio and Weavers coffee shops”, Michaela explains, “these venues previously were not able to serve hot food because of the lack of cooking facilities. Big Al’s products enable us to offer better quality food in two more stations which is, of course, excellent for students.”

Michaela was keen to promote the Big Al’s products and branded concepts to as many students as possible. To achieve this, Big Al’s lent some marketing assistance by producing images based on the design of the Foodies concept which were then displayed across campus on a number of digital screens. By communicating with and promoting to students, this new and exciting offer caught the eye and stemmed the flow of students into Huddersfield city food suppliers.

Not only have the students got more places for hot food options, they’re also enjoying a greater versatility in the menu. The Italian Pizza Twists, burgers and chicken wings have proved exceptionally popular with students.

When asked what they thought of their university’s innovative new food offer, the students’ own enthusiasm was tangible; “the catering team are thinking about what type of food we want to eat and providing it for us. The food looks and tastes just as good as any restaurant on the high street, so we feel we are getting value for money here” was the view of one student.

Another stated, “Italian Pizza Twists are really handy as they can be taken away or eaten on the way to lectures. They’re much better than sandwiches, particularly in the winter and the chilli beef on jacket potato is anther great option – I’d eat it every day if I could!”

The introduction of Big Al’s range and concepts to University of Huddersfield has certainly had a huge impact that is resonating with the most important people of all; the students. With an increase in footfall and food sales to compliment a lot of satisfied taste buds – everyone’s a winner.

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