Imagination and a can-do attitude have paid big dividends for Scolarest, the caterer of Flinders University’s Hall of Residence, which has won the 2012 national Restaurant and Catering Award in the Industrial/Institutional Caterer category.
Ms Helen Fletcher, Dean of Flinders Housing, said it was a truly remarkable result.
“This is the first time ever that a university hall of residence or a university college has won such an award,” Ms Fletcher said.
“Most ex-collegians remember the food because it was the worst element of their hall or college experience, not because it was one of the best.”
Catering for the 240 student residents of Flinders Hall is run by a team of 10, which has been managed by Ms Mandy Pulbrook (pictured left, with Ms Fletcher) since 2009.
Variation is the key, Ms Pulbrook said – offering multiple options for meat dishes, salads, pasta and vegetables and rotating the choices helps to keep the diners happy. And, as in any good restaurant, menus change with the seasons to make the most of available fresh ingredients.
While further variation comes from “healthy options” weeks, Ms Pulbrook said balanced nutrition is always a consideration, and all menus are reviewed by a dietician. The team, which includes two chefs, also add touches not usually associated with mass catering by making their own yoghurt, providing the students with a large variety of breads for sandwich-making and decorating the servery to add aesthetic pizzaz.
But perhaps the most important point of difference at Flinders Uni Hall is one of attitude, according to Ms Fletcher; the caterers are considered very much part of the Hall “family”.
“Relationships are everything when one is seeking the highest quality service from an outsourced company,” she said.
When the Hall has one of its themed formal dinners, groups of students are employed alongside the catering staff to create a memorable event, with specially made food and elaborate decorations to echo the theme.
“There is absolutely no sense of an ‘us and them’ divide between the students and the catering staff,” Ms Pulbrook said.
She also makes a point of encouraging feedback and requests from the students.
“It’s not very often I say no, and when I do, the students know there is a good reason for it,” she said.
Scolarest, which is an arm of international catering group Compass, is also involved in Hall life through support of in-house charity events and by providing sponsorship to Hall students who do volunteer work overseas.