St John's College is strengthening its commitment to delivering the highest standards of customer service by investing in its experienced team during 2019.

The College has rolled out a training programme designed to broaden the skill set of its catering and front of house staff to meet current and future requirements, with internal and external courses covering a range of topics from allergens to the importance of teamwork.

For all catering establishments, dealing with food allergies has become increasingly important and vital to ensure customer safety. As a result, Allergy in Action which carries out allergen training for the College’s full-time staff, was invited to run a course for 16 casual staff, providing them with up-to-date information so they can respond to queries accurately and knowledgeably.

External training has included front of house skills for members of the team run by The University Catering Organisation (TUCO) at University College Birmingham and the growing popularity of vegan dishes, with workshops run in Cambridge for the Cambridge Colleges Catering Committee, which uses locally-sourced products.

The College’s Deputy Fellows’ Butler is undertaking an 18-month management course in conjunction with Kendal College to help with the skills needed to lead an effective team.

St John’s College also has an Apprentice Scheme, in partnership with Westminster College in London, where the last two Apprentices have won ‘Apprentice of the Year’.

Bill Brogan, Catering & Conference Manager said: “The ‘Customer Experience’ is top of the agenda and we wanted to ensure the service we provide for all our customers – whether it is Fellows, staff, students or conference delegates – is of the highest possible standard.

“That’s why we have renewed our commitment to training for the year ahead, looking at current hot topics such as allergens, food safety, chef skills, vegetarian cooking and preparing and cooking Chinese dishes, as well as the more general team and managerial skills.

“I also sit on the TUCO Academy Committee which looks at training needs and organises training and study tours for hospitality staff throughout the UK. This experience has underlined the benefits of tapping into some of the leading organisations in catering today, to identify courses that will not only help our staff to improve their contribution to our customer offering but also inspire them with new ideas to bring back to College.”

Over the last few years, St John’s College has won a number of prestigious accolades for catering and customer service, including taking gold at the Cambridge Sustainability Food Business Awards in March 2018;  the College coming second in the National Health and Vitality Honours in 2013 (and Bill winning the Special Achievement Award at the same event); being awarded Two Stars Stars by the Sustainable Restaurants Association; and being recognised for ‘outstanding customer service’ in the CambridgeBID Awards.