Case Studies

How we help our clients

Care Homes

Over the last 11 years we have been fortunate to work with a number of schools, large and small, both in the private and public sector. During that time we have built up considerable skills and knowledge which enables us to offer the best possible service to our school clients. There’s not much we haven’t experienced in the educational environment so you can rest assured that our chefs have benefitted from our years in the business and will be able to quickly adapt to your particular requirements. But don’t just take our word for it, here’s what some of our happy clients have said about us.

Annie Ruddick – BUPA

I had a socially distanced chat with one of our care home clients, Annie Ruddick, who is the Resident Experience Manager for BUPA.

 

Can you tell us a little bit about your business?

We are a care home providing 24/7 care for our residents. We currently have 41 rooms and our residents have various needs and various dietary requirements so the food needs to be different consistencies; either a soft diet or a normal diet. Our chefs have to understand and cater for these needs.

How do you find out about The Chef Tree?

As we’re a BUPA company you would have had to introduce yourself and your business via our Head Office. You must have done that before I arrived here.

What problems are you looking to overcome when you use an agency chef?

We need chefs from time to time to cover annual leave or sickness. We currently have a full time Head Chef and a 2nd chef. We have previously used The Chef Tree when we were between head chefs so we didn’t have anyone in that function and your chefs covered the role.

What do you think makes The Chef Tree stand out from other agencies?

I think the communication works very well. When we call you, you’re very quick to respond. I prefer to use email and the response times from sending an email to getting confirmation that you have someone for us has been outstanding. I trust your system and I trust you guys to fill any vacancies for us.

What feedback about the food have you had from your residents?

It’s been brilliant! Sometimes it’s been really noticeable that someone else has been cooking so we get some really good, positive comments.

How have our office team helped your business over the years?

Well, supplying us with the staff in the first place. They’ve been very quick to respond to our needs and they have sent down really cracking staff. Your chefs come into the kitchen and just get on with it and they are quick to adapt to the new environment. They also have the ability to get on with the staff who are here. The team in your office have got to know us and they understand the nature of the business and they send the appropriate personnel down to provide adequate cover.

How have we added value to your business?

The knowledge of your chefs is great; they come in, they know exactly what they’re doing. They know they have to do the temperature check and they know that the right cleaning records have to be kept up to date. They do know their stuff, they know what they’re doing and that’s one of the things we get from you guys. If we have any problems your team are able to resolve them professionally. We do get a very professional approach from you. Your chefs get on with the job and from my perspective, when I’ve got umpteen other things to be focussing on, I don’t need a chef who doesn’t know what they’re doing. I think your company has invested very well in your ‘shadow shift’, when you send chefs down to shadow one of your more experienced chefs so they can understand the care home environment. What you’re doing and how you train your staff is working really well. We certainly have no complaints at our end about the chefs you have sent down.

 

A final question, Annie. As the business owner, is there anything I need to know?

No, I don’t think so. It’s a pleasure working with you. As I say, it’s just very easy working with you. If we ever get anything wrong then your team is very flexible in dealing with that. It’s been great working with you.

Richard Tudor – 

Can you tell us a little about your business?

We’re a residential home and our residents have a variety of dietary requirements, ranging from different levels on the IDDSI scale to specific food types that they can and cannot eat. Obviously we also cater to their own personal tastes which we do by offering a personal consultation when they arrive. We try and find out their likes and dislikes and then offer the best version of that. Currently we’re catering for 66 residents.

How did you find out about our company?

I’ve been a chef for a long time and I’ve used The Chef Tree for a number of years in other places where I’ve worked. I’ve also had a number of friends work for your company. It’s fair to say you’re quite well known in the area!

What problems in your business needed to change?

Basically staffing. The home was taken over by a new company and their business model was a lot more food service orientated than the previous owners, which warrants having more chefs. I was hired to build up a team of chefs for the home.

What makes our company stand out over others?

For me it has to be your reputation. You’re well known in this sector, care homes, schools, that kind of stuff

What is the most appealing feature of our service?

We know that when we book a chef with you that they’re going to turn up. When we need to get a chef in then we always call you because we know the experience is going to be good and the standard is going to be there.

How did our office team help with you with the implementation?

The team in the office are fantastic and have been nothing but helpful, especially during this weird part of history we’re going through at the moment, where nothing is normal. You’ve really helped us out through all of this. Getting to know your team on a one to one basis, so they already know our requirements, has been really helpful to us.

What was your initial reaction to our service?

I was happy with it! I think you’re a company that appreciates honesty which is great because I can be a bit blunt sometimes! The customer service has been outstanding and all the chefs have been of a really good standard.

Has our solution saved money, or helped with productivity?

You’ve really helped us keep the consistency of the service across the board here. I can relax because I know we’ve got a qualified chef in, who can keep our service consistent. This helps with our own reputation as a fresh food led business. Your chefs come in and just get the job done.

What have you been most impressed with?

Just the way the chefs come in and get on with it. I’m not getting constant phone calls when I’m away from the kitchen, which used to happen in the past. That’s the whole point for me of using an agency; they’re here to do a job professionally and to a high standard, without me having to babysit them. Your chefs are also able to get on with the rest of the staff here, which is important because we have a large number of care staff.

What plans do you have to use us in the future?

Well that depends on the business really but I’d be happy to use you if we have any future sites start up. My plans would be to use The Chef Tree to help cover them.

Hospitals

Neville Peak – NHS & Private 

I spoke with Neville Peak who works in a private hospital that treats private and NHS patients. The kitchen cooks all food from fresh and is open 14 hours each day, 7 days a week.

How did you find out about our company?

It was a recommendation actually. It was a former colleague that had previously worked with you. I was impressed with your recruitment process and how you vet staff properly. You also checked that they could cook! I’ve used another agency and didn’t find them particularly good or supportive and they were overly expensive.

What were you initial thoughts when one of our chefs turned up?

I’ve been really impressed with how you handle things all the way through. You do actually think about what you’re doing and who you are placing, where. You care about the customer and you’re not just after the money. I was really impressed that you yourself turned up to check out the establishment before you sent anybody so you could see what we were about. The chefs have all been very good, they’ve all done the job. They’ve turned up tidily, they’re always polite and we’ve never had an issue, which is unusual for agencies. I’ve used you for holiday cover and sickness cover as well as covering my own holidays which means I can go away with confidence.

Do you have any plans to use us in the future?

If needed be yes, I would definitely use you again in the future but no plans at the moment.

As the business owner, is there anything I should know?

I think you offer a very good product to be honest with you so I certainly wouldn’t go anywhere else, put it that way.

Restaurant and Pubs

Rob Parkin – Globe Inn

I caught up with one of our clients, Rob Parkin, Head Chef at The Globe Inn, Alvington.

Hi Rob. Can we start by you telling me a little about The Globe Inn?

Yes. We’re a gastro pub, located on the main road between Chepstow and heading into the Forest of Dean. We’re well known in the local area for producing good local home cooked food; nothing too fancy, but we do cook everything from scratch. It’s really just good simple food that offers great value for money.
We’ve got a restaurant that seats around 70 covers and also an extensive garden with outdoor covering which draws in a lot of people, especially when it’s sunny. People like to visit us and enjoy the garden, enjoy a drink and enjoy some great food.
We probably average, if you exclude the recent ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme, around 130 – 140 covers a day. Like I said, we cook all our food from scratch and we make all of our own desserts. I’d say we’re a good local pub, with a good local following but we also catch a lot of tourist traffic from the main road as well.

How did you find out about The Chef Tree?

I’d heard about The Chef Tree in the past anyway, through word of mouth, that kind of thing. Also, the owner of the business had used The Chef Tree in the past so when a need for agency staff arose we wanted to go with someone who’s either been recommended or someone we’ve used before. We heard good things about you guys so we chose you!

In what way did The Chef Tree help you out?

Normally we’d use an agency to cover long term sickness. If it’s just a one day absence we tend to muddle on through. What we’ve used you guys for a lot recently is the government’s ‘Eat out to Help Out’ promotion. We found the scheme literally doubled the number of covers we were doing every day so we needed someone to help out without having to put any one on contract. You helped us increase the manpower in the kitchen and we know you’re always going to send reliable guys. We always try to ask for the same person to come back because it makes it easier for us and easier for the chef attending.

What would you say made our company stand out from the others?

You definitely listen to what we want. We need someone who is going to be able to hold their own on a section and that’s what we get with The Chef Tree. Your guys are always reliable, they’re punctual, and generally nice friendly guys who are really pleasant to work with. It’s clear that they’re committed to the job. Some agency staff think they’re just coming in, collecting their money and going, with just doing the bare minimum of work. The staff that you send seem to care about the business that they’re working in.

Can you remember what your initial reaction was to our chefs and our service?

The initial thought was that their abilities were there from the off. I’ve worked with some agency staff before and you have to drag them through a service and coach them dish by dish. With your guys, I get them in, show them around the kitchen, show them the section, give them a prep list and they’re always able to get on and do it. I’ll verbally run through the dishes before service, maybe draw a few pictures just so they understand what’s going where on a plate and then they just crack on with it. For me that is what stands out; they’re able to come in and adapt to different scenarios and run with it, which is exactly what you need.

How do you think our service added value to your business?

Well, if you take August as an example, we normally run with one chef on each section and a pot wash. We never have more than three people in the kitchen. And with that set up, our top end numbers on a single service, let’s say a Saturday evening, is pushing seventy five meals. Bringing in one of your agency staff, we’ve managed to push out 120 in one single service. Yes, we’re paying for the agency staff to fill that gap but that then allows us to do another fifty covers. Our average spend in August was probably twenty five pounds a head so obviously that creates a lot more revenue that has a big impact on your bottom line for the month.

What would you say has impressed you the most about our chefs?

Punctuality, the skills of the chefs and how they’ve bought into your business. They don’t just come in and think it’s a quick win; get in and get out. They listen to you, they appreciate your business and they want to make sure the customers are happy; almost as if it’s their own business. Even though they know they’re only going to be here for a short amount of time, they’re still 100% committed to delivering good customer satisfaction.
As the business owner, is there anything else I might need to know about?
No, I don’t think so. They’re obviously doing a great job. The guys that you send over are always committed and I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad chef from you or somebody that I wouldn’t be happy to employ on my own books. They’re always reliable, they’re always polite, they care, they’ve got the skill set there and that’s exactly what we’re looking for.

Schools

Steve Brown – Monkton Coombe School

Steve, can you tell us a little about Monkton Coombe?

We have seven hundred pupils, give or take across Pre-Prep, Prep and Senior school so we’re feeding a community of about one thousand pupils and most of them have three meals a day with us.

How did you find out about The Chef Tree?

Thinking back it was probably through a colleague who mentioned you and just trade knowledge, finding out about who works in the area and who has a reputation for reliability.

What issues or problems did you have when you first got in touch with The Chef Tree?

When we first starting using you we had got to the point, for a variety of different reasons, where we had lost a number of chefs in a relatively short space of time. We came back at the start of the school year in September realising we didn’t have enough chefs to operate successfully around the school site. If I remember correctly we were in the position where we needed three or four chefs from you. You were able to supply most of those; I think we had one other agency at the time but as our relationship grew with The Chef Tree, the relationship with the other agency declined. And that was down to the fact that you supplied better quality chefs who were more reliable. Some of your chefs liked the idea of having block bookings but some other agencies seemed to put a different chef somewhere every week. We’ve had guys from you in our kitchen for 6-8 weeks at a time so for me, one set of inductions and they can run, whereas if you have to run inductions every five minutes it’s not worth having them here.

Okay, thanks for that. What would you say it is then that makes The Chef Tree stand out from other agencies?

For us it’s the fact that you do the DBS checks which makes our life a lot easier being in a school. It’s also that reliability side of things where you contact us if you know there might be a problem. I think you share the same values as we do where we both know that business has to continue, no matter what happens. I get that sense when I talk to your guys and girls.

What was your initial reaction to the chefs we supplied? Could you see a difference from our agency to others?

At the beginning of our business relationship I saw a difference on the admin side. The DBS side of things makes it easier to get people in the building. Other agencies do supply good chefs but over time it was clear that your chefs were consistently good.

How do you think our service has added value to your business?

For us it’s not strictly about saving cost but rather using the budget we have wisely to ensure we deliver the service we need to deliver. It’s that service continuity that drives me forward. We have a boarding community of about 300 pupils and we need to be here for 300 hundred breakfasts, lunches and suppers seven days a week in term time, regardless. So we need a core team that can keep delivering that and that’s where The Chef Tree can really help us.

 

What are the plans for the school in the future?

Getting back to normal would be nice! We’re slightly down on pupil numbers at the moment but we are on our way to some kind of normal so we will be getting busier.

As the business owner, is there anything I need to know?

Keep doing all the good stuff you do! From a cost point of view with other agencies, you are more expensive but there is the argument that you are offering a premium product so it’s swings and roundabouts really. We could save money elsewhere but it gives us some hassle so we’ve opted for the less hassle route! When you’re short staffed you don’t won’t to be faffing around looking for people so if we can find them once and use them for a few weeks then the job is done.

Darren Langley – UWE

I spoke to Darren Langley, Head Chef at the University of the West of England where he caters for functions, students and various other events across the University campus.

How many kitchens do you oversee at the University?

At present, seven kitchens. This includes smaller outlets as well as large multi-purpose kitchens.

How did you find out about our company?

I think I had a phone call! I know you used to do a lot of front of house before we needed chefs so obviously you dealt with the senior managers and they cascaded it down to me that you also did chefs.

How do you find our service and the people we send out to you?

The staff are always good. I like that you also send photographs and a brief employment history so we can see who we’re getting before they arrive. This helps us manage the various elements of the kitchen. So if we’re employing a CDP it’s great to see their skillset, where they’ve been, that kind of thing. I’ve never had any issues with any of the chefs that I’ve been sent.

How do you rate the team in the office?

Your team in the office are really nice, no problems at all. It’s good that you phone your chefs in the morning to make sure they’re coming in to work so then we get a phone call letting us know if our booked chef is coming in or if you’re sending a replacement. That’s a really good back-up plan that you have in place.

What have you been most impressed with?

The speed of service. When we phone up asking for chefs you always get someone in for us.

What would you say to someone who was unsure about using us as an agency?

If they’d want me as a recommendation then no problems at all, I’d be happy to do it.

Have you got any plans to use us in the future?

At the moment it’s a bit of the unknown because we’re in the middle of a very strange time. It’s hard to say what we need and when we need it because things are changing all the time. But if we needed you then I wouldn’t hesitate to get in touch.

 

Nursery

Zoe Parsons – Lakehouse Nurseries

I caught up with Zoe Parsons, owner of two children’s nurseries in Portishead, Bristol which have been trading since 2011, with approximately 220 children and 86 staff across the two sites. They have two kitchens, one on each site, and really care about food provision for the children.

How important is it that chefs’ understand allergen information for children?

It’s absolutely imperative. We need staff who consider every aspect of what leaves the kitchen because with children we just don’t know the reaction that might happen and we clearly don’t want that. Sometimes a supplier might swap out ingredients so we have to be really careful that we are aware of any changes and the reaction the children may have.

How did you hear about our company?

To be honest I think I was just searching the internet and you guys came up. I liked the branding and the fact that you supplied chefs’ that are DBS checked and that had the experience we needed. I like that you can speak to someone and chat through your requirements. I liked the fact that you wanted to get to know us and therefore what we needed. You have an online portal as well which is really helpful. You also send through a picture of the person coming. I thought you offered a really professional service.

Was there a specific issue in the business that meant that you needed to use us?

It was just covering for absence and holidays. Our kitchens are quite small so I can’t have spare people around just to cover an absence. We thought that covering for holidays was really useful to the business.

How do you rate the team in the office?

It was really important that you understood the shifts that we needed, what kind of person we wanted: which was someone who really needed to hit the ground running, take a look at the menu and get on with it. We needed someone who understood the health and hygiene regulations of the kitchen and someone who would get the food out and also leave the kitchen clean at the end of the day. We talked all of this through with you and you provided us with our first chef who was absolutely fantastic!

What was your initial reaction to the service we provided?

I was very pleased from the first time we used you. I was impressed with the professionalism. Your chef arrived, looked very professional, he knew his stuff, asked the right questions in terms of the things he needed to know to set himself up for the day. He wasn’t afraid to ask the managers if there was something he was unsure about but also he was really good in terms of the product. At the time he had to do some ordering so he gave us some ideas on different suppliers as well as different things we could do. It certainly wasn’t a case of him arrive, cook a meal and leave. I felt that I was getting a premium service.

Do you have any plans to use us in the future?

At the moment we have two chefs in each site and our apprentices are trained up to be chefs so in terms of cover for the odd day, I’d be very happy to use you and if there was any holiday we couldn’t cover internally I would definitely give you a call. We would be looking for a premium service which I know you can deliver.

As the business owner is there anything you feel I should know?

Quality is so important so I would say it’s really vital that you know the skill levels of every chef that is on your books and that they have the experience to go into the different settings that you put them in. A kitchen like ours is so different to a restaurant because you’re making things in one go rather than cooking to order so it’s important that chefs realise that.

Now not a good time? Why not book a call with one of our experienced office team who will happily talk through any questions or concerns you may have.

The Chef Tree portal is really simple to use, you can check whom you have booked in and sign timesheets.

They send chefs in for training, no agency has ever done that, the Chef Tree have taken the time to get it right.

Colin Robb Shaw Healthcare

We have found The Chef Tree send the same chefs often, you've got consistency & they understand the running of our kitchen

Polly Massie Woodhouse

Bristol Chef Agency

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