Big Al’s Foodservice Case Study: Loughborough College
With more than 14,000 students and 1,000 staff on site, Loughborough College competes for its trade with nearby high street foodservice outlets offering a range of grab and go options and tempting meal deals that appeal to students and staff alike.
Having identified the importance of updating its existing food offering to provide students with on trend, satisfying meal solutions, Loughborough Catering Manager, Stuart Finn, who had previously worked with Big Al’s Foodservice, was confident the brand could help build his business whilst keeping customers coming back for more.
What’s more, with a substantial outdoor events programme in place, and a brand new £300k sports pitch installed to regularly host sporting events, the College also required a convenient portable solution to extend its food offering beyond the fixed canteen facilities. With the campus spread across a broad footprint, the canteen was inaccessible to many and not within easy reach of other students looking to enjoy a drink or snack – a key sales opportunity the College had identified that it was missing out on.
Committed to delivering innovative solutions to meet the requirements of customers, and with over 30 years’ experience in the European Foodservice market, Big Al’s Foodservice worked closely with Loughborough College to develop a three phase strategy to overhaul and update its entire foodservice offering. Big Al’s has now successfully implemented the first phase of activity – an innovative menu solution and bespoke branded food concept that delivers on taste, quality and convenience, delivering quality to consumers and profits to catering managers.
After scheduling site visits and a number of consultations with the College to understand the exact needs of the business, Big Al’s Foodservice created a bespoke concept to meet its on site mobile catering needs. Designed to increase the number of catering stations on site and enhance the kitchens current flexibility, the brand-new mobile food cart provides a visually appealing food station which is easily adaptable depending on the menu. With interchangeable magnetic strip branding, the ‘Big Al’s Foodees’ cart can be updated with branded POS to keep it fresh and exciting. The cart is also been equipped with 24 circular menu cards which can be attached to the cart and updated to highlight daily food options available to students. With six individual holding trays built into the unit, caterers at Loughborough College has the ability to offer both hot and cold meal options at any one time.
Stuart Finn, Loughborough Catering Manager said: “Following an initial meeting to discuss our catering requirements, Big Al’s Foodservice created a strong set of visuals for the bespoke mobile cart, and we were extremely impressed with the results. They had taken all of our needs into consideration and devised a concept that works perfectly within our environment. The unique Big Al’s cart, which is the first of its type in the country, allows us to reach areas of the College that were otherwise impossible – with accommodation onsite for 180 students we can now provide them with a brilliant food offering.”
“The cart caters up to 150 people – should demand increase then we have the facilities for a second member of the catering team to act as a runner and top the cart up with product as required. With the grab and go trend so prominent with consumers, the cart allows us to tap into student demand for hot options on the move. Offering a street style food concept really appeals to a younger audience and being able to maximise this trend will really boost profits at the College.’
The innovative cart concept expands on the launch of the Big Al’s Foodservice range across the College’s four food outlets. Having been in place for 1.5 years, the menu has performed extremely well to date and Loughborough College has experienced a strong increase in footfall.
Lee Smith, Head Chef at Loughborough College said: “The introduction of the Big Al’s range has absolutely helped us to successfully compete with high street outlets. Gone are the days where the traditional school dinner concept works. With so many high street chains influencing student’s palates, the College needed to update its offering to adapt to wider street food trends. It is extremely important that as a business we constantly evolve and improve our food options to make sure we’re meeting the needs of our students and dynamically building our own business.
“Big Al’s products perform consistently. With a combi oven cooking time of 5 minutes, we can cook product as and when we need it, which has helped significantly reduce wastage and minimise costs in the kitchen. Since the introduction of Big Al’s range including, 6oz and 4oz Flame Cooked Beef Burgers, Buffalo Chicken Wings and Chicken Steaks, we have seen a 50% increase in sales. Twice a week we are selling more than 200 burgers, whilst we are getting through 2-3 boxes of Big Al’s Buffalo Chicken Wings.”
Loughborough College has received positive feedback from students since the introduction of Big Al’s Buffalo Chicken Wings, which is now the best performing menu item. “We introduced a substantial range of flavoured Buffalo Chicken Wings to our menu and have received great feedback to date, comments Stuart Finn. “The product is extremely versatile and gives us the flexibility to adopt flavours from around the world, as well as tapping into the street food trend which our students love. We have experimented with a variety of marinades, from Vietnamese and Chinese flavours to traditional BBQ, helping us to take one great tasting product and turning it into a range of bestselling menu items. We have also been able to offer a number of meal deals and sharing items – perfect within the College environment.”
With training regularly held at the new sports pitch, Loughborough College recently hosted training for the Under 21’s England Rugby team. With an intense training schedule, it was important that an array of healthy food choices were on offer.
U21’s England Captain, Billy Bishop said: “The Big Al’s branded cart is a great way to attract people – we were definitely keen to see what was on offer. The range available was perfect for a post-workout snack as we regularly need to consume high levels of protein. I particularly enjoyed the flavoured chicken wings and it’s something that I would definitely eat again. The marinade was tasty, and the chicken extremely succulent!”
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