Inside… Inhouse Manager

26/10/2015 - 19:55
In Cost Sector Catering’s series of Q&As with suppliers, we talk to Marjorie Small, area manager at Inhouse Manager.

Cost Sector Catering: What have been the challenges and the main drivers of your business?

Marjorie Small: The EU Food Information Regulations (FIRs) have been a game-changer for many cost sector caterers. We have been providing innovative technology to the NHS, schools and care homes for more than 20 years but, this year, caterers are realising the true potential that catering software such as Inhouse Manager has for their operation.

To that end, we released our Allergen Information Module in January of this year, which aids caterers with the presentation of detailed allergen information as prescribed by the FIRs of December 2014. The modern cloud-based software reliably provides detailed information on the 14 allergen categories and is an easy-to-use, responsive information tool for caterers – a vital instrument in ensuring safe compliance with the new legal standards.

As many operators have struggled to keep up, it’s never been clearer that technology can help increase operational performance by cutting through unnecessary administration, and providing accurate and immediate data with very little labour involved.

Have the issues raised by universal infant free school meals (UIFSM) now been resolved as far as software is concerned?

The UIFSM scheme brought about many difficulties for schools, particularly those searching to deliver a quality service on a strict budget. Inhouse Manager’s smart software enables schools to fix a day rate for each pupil for a defined period. This fixed price per pupil per day empowers schools to manage their catering budget efficiently and for the long term. The fixed-price approach to school meals has been keenly received and works particularly well when looking to bring cost control to catering operations working under the UIFSM.

Are caterers looking for specific software? What advice are you offering them?

Following on from the changes of the FIRs, we have seen an increase in caterers looking for software that saves time, adapts to the alterations in regulations and, of course, saves costs.

Our ward ordering system, which is used by Great Ormond Street Hospital, is a good example of this. When the menus are changed, as they often are, the system will automatically update the data in real time. The system can also be accessed at ward level via any internet-connected device, including tablets, so therefore, once the ward operator logs on, they can view that day’s menu card, which will dynamically change every day with the menu cycle. This serves to reduce waste even at ward level while adding additional operation efficiencies.

What trends do you see emerging in this sector?

With the complex and now legal demand for access to nutritional and allergen information alongside the rising concern for health awareness in public sector meals, we see caterers needing to go above and beyond to deliver on these issues. From our own research, we know that caterers are taking even more care with their recipes and menus to provide choice, balance and quality, all at a cost-effective price. Technology and software like Inhouse Manager have never been more needed; as caterers strive to meet these demands, our software delivers accuracy, immediacy and advanced reporting at their fingertip.

What is your game plan for the next 12 months?

After the launch of our allergen software at the beginning of 2015, we are now developing an advanced nutritional information module. This will provide an improved technological response for caterers looking to analyse and assess the nutritional content of their menus. The new software will provide detailed nutritional reporting on menus, recipes and ingredients to help caterers meet British standards, such as those provided by the British Dietetic Association. This module will also allow caterers to quickly, responsively and safely react to seasonal menu changes, and faith-based or therapeutic dietary requirements.

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