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A Case Study On Automation, Compliance & Sustainability

Founded in 1800, Downing College in the University of Cambridge is renowned for its commitment to excellence in education and student life. This commitment extends to the college's catering services, which manage around 1,000 recipes and generate approximately £3 million annually from catering for external conferences, weddings, and student events.

With 600 students and 150 staff members, the catering department faced significant challenges in recipe and menu management, food costing, and compliance with food safety legislation. We interviewed Downing College's Head of Catering, David Harwood, to find out how Kafoodle has transformed the catering operations of Downing College.

Improved food safety with

ingredient and recipe allergen reporting and labeling that updates instantly to changes.

Improve the quality and sustainability

of food with documented recipes for consistency and carbon rating to help guide low-carbon menu item creation.

Save time by instantly calculating

the important values relating to a recipe inside Kafoodle preventing any need for human input.

The problems

Nutritional calculations - Downing College's kitchen team didn't have written recipes to follow. Training new kitchen staff took time, and each batch could have had a different taste and nutritional value.

UK calorie labelling legislation means the catering team need to understand every recipe's nutritional content, and the kitchen team would need to serve accurate portions with a 20% variation allowance.

Allergen reporting - The catering team already had a robust allergen management system. However, as it was a system of spreadsheets, the process was timely and required knowledge of kitchen team members. Each day, menu items and their information, including their allergens, were uploaded to a digital display system shown across campus.

Natasha's Law, which requires the college to display the allergens in bold on the food labels of every pre-packed food item for direct sale, only made this manual allergen reporting system more challenging to manage.

Food costing- Using spreadsheet databases meant updating ingredient costs, and all the affected recipes from the possible 1,000, required manual searching and updating. Keeping recipe costs consistently up-to-date was unrealistic with the resources available and the manual administration required. As a result, recipe costs were estimates unless clients provided a catering budget for an event.

Now that food inflation is so turbulent, staying in control of food costs and profit margins is more challenging than ever before, and managing 13 suppliers, big and small, proved nearly impossible with the legacy spreadsheet system.


The Solutions

After assessing several systems, Kafoodle was the clear choice to become the central platform to streamline Downing College's catering operations, offering a robust menu database that supports PPDS labelling, recipe sheets for the kitchen, and digital menu distribution.

Recipe database- The Kafoodle recipe builder allows users to create recipes in minutes and receive nutritional, allergen and cost information in seconds. Kafoodle drags all the information from the ingredient data, meaning all this information, which was previously static in a spreadsheet, is now instantly available If the ingredient information changes, so do all the recipes it is present in.

Most importantly to Downing College, recipes in the system are accessible to the entire catering team, with data sheets containing statistical data, preparation and method information to follow with text or images for guidance.

Allergen displays - As a fully integrated system, Kafoodle doesn't just keep the allergen information in the recipe database. Allergen information is sent to the food label templates for the recipe, where it is formatted and displayed so that it complies with laws the user requires.

Downing College, like many institutions, wants to provide their students, staff and customers with menu information before the point of purchase. Using Kafoodle's digital menu, accessed using web links or scanning a QR code, students and customers can view the menu anytime. Like the food labels, information is dragged directly from the recipe database to keep the information reliably up-to-date.

Supplier imports- Every Kafoodle feature uses ingredient data in real-time, and Downing College purchases from 13 suppliers of varied sizes and technological capabilities.

The catering team supplies Kafoode support with supplier ingredient data sheets to be imported into the system monthly. Any changes to ingredient information are automatically updated. If an ingredient is no longer available, ingredients can be swapped across the recipe portfolio to prevent updating every recipe that uses the no longer available ingredient.


The Results 

Kafoode has transformed Downing College's catering operations. Initially motivated by legislation, stakeholders College-wide have benefited. David said, "We use Kafoodle for compliance, making sure the chefs have the recipes they need to produce our food correctly, send out our menus to students by email or QR codes, labelling for food that is pre-packed for direct sell. It's the centre of our food business."

Boosted kitchen efficiency - With standardised recipes and procedures, chefs can produce consistent quality and portion-size food, aligning with advertised nutritional values. This standardisation is critical for meeting kCal legislation and ensuring customer satisfaction. David noted, "From the point of view of the kitchen, as long as you have good administration managing all the food information, the time saving for the kitchen is substantial, and it's much easier for them to produce consistent food."

The data sheets Kafoodle provides have become essential for chefs to use. David emphasised the value of recipes as training documents,"The recipe is a great training document. Every time you have a new staff member, you can give them a precise method and recipe document, with fine details such as plating and preparation, instead of spending all day with them training."

Simplified safety & compliance - Kafoodle ensures that Downing College stays compliant with food safety legislation, providing tools for macro-nutritional information, calorie content, and allergen labelling, meeting legal requirements and supporting the college's commitment to student health and safety.

Pricing and cost control - By importing monthly price files from 12-13 suppliers, Kafoodle provides almost live pricing, enabling accurate food costing that reflects current market prices. David highlighted, "When we build a recipe, not only do we get the nutritional information, labelling, the recipes for the chefs, we also get the costing, which gets updated monthly as the new price files are imported into Kafoodle, especially now with food inflation, it's helping us control our costs better."

Accessible information for the college and its customers - Before the implementation of Kafoodle, nutritional values were unavailable, and allergen information could be seen on specific screens by customers or provided to catering staff serving on the hot plates should they be asked any questions.

Now, digital menus can be accessed using a digital display in the canteen or at any time using a digital device. Within the digital menu, images and banners can be housed, allowing the college to promote recipe credentials to appeal to various consumer trends, such as food to improve cognitive function and muscle recovery.

To view Downing College's live digital menu, click here.

Advice from David

"It always helps to have intuitive software with an easy-to-understand interface; we looked at quite a few different systems, but compared to Kafoodle, they had very busy screens, which felt overly complicated. Here are my three pieces of advice.

Firstly, you need a way of having live costing that can be updated with new information; changing ingredient costs and then all the recipes that use that ingredient can be unmanageable, especially if you have as many recipes as we do at Downing College.

Secondly, find a system which can do almost everything you need; additional systems don't always work together and can create more work. Having a system like Kafoodle that manages your recipes, menus, and labels is so valuable.

Finally, find a company with good, speedy and reactive customer support."

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