Pay As You Dine: You Asked We Answered

A major part of the Pay As You Dine (PAYD) rollout last year involved extensive feedback from customers across all ranks, as well as civilians. Some were satisfied customers, others less so…

The survey and feedback sheets were, and continue to be, addressed by Squadron Leader Sidebotham, Officer Commanding Catering Squadron and Partnering Officer for the catering, retail and leisure (CRL) contract, and Richard Fletcher, General Manager, ISS Defence. A selection of issues raised and answered by the CRL partners follow, as well as an overview of some common concerns:

Comment: All sandwich options contain mayonnaise; not just in the Sergeants’ mess but also on the Bapmobile. This offers no choice for those who don’t like, or can’t eat mayo.

Answer: You are absolutely correct and I’d like to thank you for bringing the issue to our attention. Hopefully you will have seen that we immediately changed the way the fillings are made.  As a direct result of your feedback, the fillings that do not directly require mayonnaise are now being made without it and a sachet of mayonnaise added within the packaging.

Comment: I really didn’t enjoy the core meal today of Honey and Mustard Sausages. They were pink throughout, desperately cheap and thoroughly unappetizing.

Answer: Thanks for your comments made in regard to the poor quality sausages used in the Honey & Mustard Sausage meal that you had.  We too have noted the quality of these sausages and, because of that, have changed to the beef variety.  I will not pretend that any of the sausages will be prime quality items but, equally, it has to be taken into account that the full lunch meal only costs £ 1.35.
Comment: Italian chicken – very tasty, thank-you! Please can we get brown bread for “Grab and Go” or Bapmobile products!

Answer: Many thanks for your comments in regard to the Italian Chicken dish you had.  It is always really nice to hear that someone has enjoyed a meal – it is all too easy to forget to compliment the staff and they do truly appreciate it.

I understand that Seargant Taylor has already replied to your plea for brown bread to be available at the ‘Grab & Go’ and on the BapMobile.  In addition, we have only today reviewed the ‘Grab & Go’ in the Mess and a revised, and hopefully better, service should start from Monday 28 November 2011.  Please let me know what you think!

Comment: The core menu seems heavily limited in choice to varying recipes of liver, sausage or chicken drumsticks! Before Pay As You Dine liver and sausages came up on the menu maybe once every six months, now we have had them come up at least three times in two weeks! Not acceptable…. Carbonara was good. Hotpot was poor – just some pieces of cheap meat with a few potato slices and water for gravy – hardly my idea of a ‘traditional Lancashire hotpot!’ Shepherd’s pie was very good – good portion size and no skimping on the veg – way better than the first week of Pay As You Dine (PAYD). Also, no HP sauce – bonza!

Answer: Many thanks for your comments in regard to the meals you had in the Mess on those days – I’ll deal with each issue you have raised in turn:

Use of liver, sausage and chicken drumsticks in the Classic meals.

You refer to the rare use of these items pre-PAYD.  I am sure that you are aware that, pre-PAYD, chefs were allowed to claim a daily allowance for every liver-in irrespective of whether those individuals attended meals.  With significantly less than 40% regularly taking any of the three meals a day, the chefs were literally awash with money in their catering account and, as a result, could use the finances to purchase high quality items for the benefit of the small numbers attending each meal.

PAYD has brought us to the place where we always should have been – the chefs now only get the money for those who actually attend the meal.  At the same time, the MoD has directed the Catering Retail and Leisure contractor to provide a cooked breakfast for £ 1.15, a cooked lunch with potatoes, vegetable, bread and a hot drink for £ 1.35 and a three course evening meal plus a hot drink for £ 1.75.  I have been in catering for 35 years and I can tell you that this is almost impossible to do unless you purchase the cheaper cuts of meat.  This is the reason that you will see the items you are doing in the classic range but let me reiterate – it is because the MoD are insisting on unrealistic financial controls – not because ISS Defence are requiring it.  Having said all that, PAYD has also brought you the opportunity to select from the Supreme or the Chef Special range if you pay a small amount more or for you to eat off-station if you wish to (although I know for a fact that you won’t be able to get a three course meal for £ 1.75 anywhere else!).

Carbonara & Hotpot

I’m glad you enjoyed the Carbonara.  As for the hotpot, others have given feedback that the meat was cooked well and tasty but agreed with you about the lack of potato and the poor quality gravy.  I’m sure that you raised your concerns with the staff immediately because there is clearly nothing that I can do now and if you did, then I’m sure that Sergeant Taylor will review the recipe to ensure that the issues you highlighted are resolved.

Shepherd’s Pie. Again, I’m glad you enjoyed the pie in both quality and quantity.  Thank you for letting us know.

Comment: Please could you provide salad dressing with the salad. Not salad cream, but actual salad dressing.

Answer: Many thanks for your request for salad dressing to be available – it now is.  If not obvious in the dining room, please do not hesitate to ask a member of the staff for it.

Comment: Please allow desserts to be replaced with a piece of fruit.

Answer: I am happy to confirm that you can actually take any sweet of an equivalent price, whether it is a piece of fruit or a yoghurt or a different hot or cold dessert.  All the till operators are aware of this.

Other recurring issues that were responded to included the fact that the menus are subject to review on an ongoing basis to eliminate less popular options and to target replicated options.
Portion sizes for protein items have been questioned and customers were assured these met sanctioned amounts: healthy eating options are being addressed at a central level.

There has been excellent feedback for many menu choices, and it is gratifying that people have taken the trouble to comment on this. Squadron Leader Sidebotham stressed the necessity of identifying dishes that appear less than acceptable at the time of the meal, and bringing concerns to the attention of Mess staff immediately, as it is difficult to assess the complaint once the dish has been taken off for the day.
One theme that stood out strongly amongst all the feedback was praise for all the staff across the Messes; for their consistently quality service and great attitude. It is naturally easier to criticise than compliment, but the staff really do appreciate being appreciated.

Menu changes have since been made in response to ongoing feedback, resulting in the PAYD 2 food offers which aim to appeal to consumers’ demands and appetites.

If you have further comments or enquiries, please feel free to contact Sqn Ldr Mike Sidebotham on ext. 7238, or ISS General Manager, Richard Fletcher, on ext 7624.

Some comments and answers have been edited for reasons of space, but the integrity of the communication has been maintained. All original comments sheets and replies may be viewed at Catering Head Quarters.

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