Reflecting on the
Independent Education Caterers’ Forum

Mill Hill Set up

On Friday 22 April, food procurement experts allmanhall held an Independent Education Caterers’ Forum event in partnership with the ISBA and kindly hosted by Mill Hill School. The day was dedicated to knowledge sharing and networking with caterers from independent schools across the UK. It kicked off with some well-earned refreshments courtesy of Mill Hill’s fantastic team, as well as an opportunity for guests to network. This chance to meet other caterers and discuss challenges and ideas was reported as a particular highlight of the day.

“The event was enjoyable - in particular, the chance to network with other schools.
Thank you for organising it.”
Christopher Moore
Director of Catering, Mayfield School

Cake display Mill Hill

To launch the day of talks, Mike Meek, allmanhall’s procurement director, dived straight into the not insignificant topic of Sustainability. This insightful talk focused on the importance of transparent supply chains, the challenges climate change presents today and into the future. Most importantly Mike explored the role of caterers in affecting change, to help schools measure and reduce their emissions. A particularly shocking fact that emerged from the talk was that “70% of deforestation is linked to agriculture”, highlighting how important it is to consider what and where our food comes from. Carbon-assessment tools like Foodsteps, who have an exclusive partnership with allmanhall, are a great support for caterers on the path to achieving environmental targets.

“The sustainability section was very informative and helpful.”
Pam Dickens
Head of Catering Services, Radley College

There followed a coffee break (and more incredible food from the Mill Hill catering team). During this break, the guests re-started conversations with their catering peers, sharing further thoughts. Some also took the chance to see a demo of the award-winning Foodsteps platform, courtesy of allmanhall’s managing director, Oliver Hall.

Then two ex-independent education caterers, Hayden Hibbert, allmanhall’s director of client relations and Ivor Richards, client account manager at allmanhall, shared their vast foody knowledge. They took to the stage to discuss food innovation. This presentation gave a great insight into how schools can mix up their menus to include dishes from around the world. The talk also considered the latest market trends; alternative milks, climate counting and tinned fish were all explored. It was also bought to our attention that ”25% of all meals in the UK are now vegan or vegetarian”, highlighting the change in consumer demand, particularly within those aged 14-24. This served to emphasise how being aware of changing trends and eating habits is crucial when developing catering menus for our pupils.

Ivor and Hayden presenting

A brilliant buffet lunch was then provided by Mill Hill school. We were all treated to an array of savoury and sweet dishes, including vegan options and a real demonstration of the importance of dietary requirements and the communication of allergens.

“The hospitality was excellent, a huge thanks to the Mill Hill team. Really informative day and great to network with others and to realise, we are all facing similar issues with food costs, staffing etc.”
Dougie Brown
Head of General Services, Downe House School

Oliver Hall, managing director at allmanhall then delivered a presentation on a hugely relevant topic at present, food inflation. Oliver’s erudite talk brought into focus the situation we are currently facing, stating that this is the “fastest rate of inflation for 30 years”. The talk then delved into the catalysts are behind this drastic change in inflation, pinpointing labour shortages, rising energy prices, geopolitics and the global pandemic to name but a few.

“Really interesting talks, to the point, not too long, gave over some really useful info and thoughts… A really enjoyable and useful day.”
Jeff Reese
Senior Procurement Manager, The Girls’ Day School Trust

Oliver presenting

Rachael Venditti concluded the day with a presentation on Dietetics and Nutrition, focusing on the past, the present and, vitally, what school caterers should be preparing for next. Rachael shared the worrying picture surrounding children’s wellbeing, with obesity levels having increased by 4% and simultaneously an increase in symptoms of depression and PTSD in children. The talk also focused on allergens, looking legislation such as “Natasha’s Law” and what this means for caterers.

“A really interesting day, I found all the talks very informative and everything was very well organised - Thank you!”
Janet Clarkson-Hope
Catering Manager, Mayfield School

Thank you to everyone who attended the event and helped to make it such a great success! Huge thanks go to the team at Mill Hill for looking after us all so well. And we are hugely grateful to the ISBA for partnering with us to support this event for caterers.


The opportunity to have long overdue face-to-face conversations with both old and new contacts has been greatly missed and is an invaluable part of the work we all do within independent education catering.

“A very enjoyable day and a great chance to meet up after such a long time. The talks were relevant and helpful and the hospitality was outstanding. Thank you.”
Emma Hickmott
Domestic Bursar, Worth School

For more great industry insight and inspiration from allmanhall, why not take a look at the resources we have available online. From blogs to webinars, there is plenty of food for thought. It is regularly updated so do keep checking back.

If you’d like to learn more about Foodsteps, exclusively available through allmanhall to independent education inhouse catering teams, contact the team at allmanhall.

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