Successful menu development day for multi-site London nursery group

London Early Years Foundation (LEYF) is a group of 40 nurseries and pre-schools across London supporting over 4,000 children a year. A successful charitable social enterprise, LEYF nurseries are deliberately sited in areas of deprivation to provide early learning and education to children in London who otherwise may not have access to high quality early years childcare.

LEYF is a longstanding Regency member and at the start of the year, Regency Procurement Manager, Anna Matthews, worked with the LEYF management team to review their contracted pricing and purchasing requirements. Following an in-depth analysis, the decision was made to move from their incumbent supplier to regional foodservice supplier, KFF to reduce costs and benefit from improved service levels and rep engagement.

Following several months working in successful partnership, LEYF expressed an interest in exploring KFF’s wider product ranges and alternative and 'next best' products to support their dedication to providing all children with varied, nutritionally balanced, tasty meals.

The charity’s  in-house chefs makes almost all dishes from scratch and rotate their menus monthly with menus designed to expand the children’s palates, offering the best mix of nutrients, flavours, textures and food groups every week.

The nurseries already served fish at least twice weekly and fresh fruit and vegetables every day, but they were looking to introduce new initiatives such as ‘meat-free Mondays’ as well as further developing their low-salt, low-fat and low-sugar offerings and expanding their already-high emphasis on sustainability, with a particular focus on palm oils and packaging.

In October 2023, Regency Procurement Manager, Anna Matthews arranged for LEYF’s senior chef team along with two apprentice chefs and their Sustainability Manager to visit the KFF/Sysco development kitchens in nearby Covent Garden. Here they were joined by KFF’s Product Development Chef, Mark Prior and Key Account Manager (and ex-chef), Rachael Wilkinson.

The experienced KFF team presented their response to the brief with numerous recipes and handouts showcasing a variety of dishes, all made from scratch, including a selection of plant-based and vegan dishes, menu items with ‘hidden’ vegetables and playful breakfast options such as rolled oat snack balls, fruit smoothie ‘sippies’ and overnight oats. All recipes were carefully crafted to adhere to strict nutrition, portion size and allergy requirements.

Following an open discussion and product sampling session, the LEYF chefs were tasked with a ‘Ready Steady Cook’ style challenge. In teams, the chefs selected ingredients from a small store cupboard and were given 30 minutes to create healthy and innovative dishes to present back to the group.

Each LEYF chef works independently in their own site kitchen, so this exercise gave the chefs the rare opportunity to share ideas and best practices, discuss challenges and explore the wide range of dishes that can be created using a small selection of core ingredients – all in a live kitchen environment.

Following a successful food development day, several exciting new dishes have been created for the children at LEYF nurseries.

All new and existing recipes have been loaded into MenuIQ and QR codes for each dish have been made available on the nursery's website, allowing parents to instantly view the nutritional content and allergens in every dish on the menu.

The LEYF team left the KFF kitchen brimming with new ideas, motivation and bags full of product samples to try at home.

If you’re interested in taking part in a food development session with any of our suppliers, please contact your Procurement Manager for more information.

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