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The working life of a catering manager

Author: Mark Scott
10 November 2017
  • Mark Scott with members of the bereavement cookery club

Mark Scott is the Catering and Domestic Services Manager at Pendleside Hospice in East Lancashire. As well as his day-to-day role Mark is Chair of the North West Hospice Caterers Group, which shares best practice and procedures across hospices in the North of England.

Back in 2011 I had a light bulb moment after struggling to create policies and procedures. I realised that if I was struggling to do it then every other caterer, in every other hospice, must be having similar issues.

When discussing these problems with Sue Gooden from Bolton Hospice, it became apparent that there were many other issues we had in common including supplier issues, budgets, staff levels and structures, and the lack of specialist nutritional training in palliative care.

Borne out of these issues we created the North West Hospice Caterers Group, which was initially for the North West, but now covers most of the North of England. The group meets once a quarter and each member takes turns hosting the meetings, with minutes circulated for those who can’t attend.

One of the things we noticed was that some of the members were paying much more than others for the same product. We soon realised that we had greater buying power together, and so decided to establish an account exclusive to hospice caterers. Our nominated supplier agreed to match the lowest price we found for each item, and also agreed to provide a five per cent invoice rebate, as well as putting an extra one per cent back into the group for training and development projects. These projects have included creating an accredited Palliative Nutrition Qualification along with Dysphagia and Dementia training days.

One of our main challenges at Pendleside is that we have to create around 100 meals a day, serving across three or four areas. Although we have a core menu, our motto is that as long as we have the ingredients we will make what the patients want and that could be anything from “egg & chips” to “lobster Thermidor”. We also find that we need to adapt our meals for people with differing dietary needs, such as those needing fortified foods or who have problems swallowing.

It is hard to describe a typical day, as part of what I love about this job is that no two days are the same. I commute to Pendleside from Buckden, in the Yorkshire Dales, where I live with my wife and four young children; I am also a community First Responder for the Yorkshire Ambulance service.

I arrive at around 7.30am and have a meeting with the domestic team who keep the hospices’ ten bedrooms, 16 offices, 18 toilets and numerous other areas spic and span. They use the most innovative products and microfibre technology that have been endorsed by the caterers group, which also benefits from group pricing from our nominated janitorial supplier.

 In total there are 13 people in the catering and domestic team, with nine of those being in the kitchen.

Some days I will be entirely in the kitchen, and others I will be in meetings, providing catering for hospice events, delivering staff and volunteer training in numerous subjects, or just administrative-related tasks such as rotas, budgets and HR.

When a new inpatient arrives I go and speak to them about their likes and dislikes and introduce the catering and domestic service to them and their families. I also help provide nutritional advice to day service patients and their carers.

We are also piloting a community ‘meals on wheels’ service later this month, which if successful we hope will offer a valuable service to some of the most vulnerable people in Burnley & Pendle, and also provide some additional income for the hospice.

I organise a cookery club for people who have been recently bereaved. So far I have run over 20 courses and it is now in its sixth year. The courses run each Thursday for six weeks. The sessions have been very successful and people have made lasting friendships; we have even celebrated the wedding of two people who met at the cookery club.

During my working life, I have had a very varied career, joining the Army at 16 where I trained to be a Chef, this went from patrolling the streets armed in conflict zones at one extreme, to catering for Royal functions at another.  I have also been Head Chef at some prestigious North West restaurants. Working at Pendleside Hospice has been my most challenging experience to date, but has also been the most rewarding.

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