Schools caterer serves up expansion with help from Dorset Growth Hub

An award-winning ‘not for profit’ schools caterer has expanded its capacity and workforce by half after input from Dorset Growth Hub.

The countywide business support agency helped Local Food Links find new premises to meet rising demand among primary schools for more choice in meal catering.

A move to a purpose-built kitchen hub in Weymouth has helped increase production to 3,700 meals a day, a 48% rise on the previous year.

The dramatic expansion has taken the number of schools serviced by the 13-year-old social enterprise to 50 and created eleven new jobs.

A key recent contract win was with 15 schools, 13 of which are members of the Dorchester Area Schools Partnership.

Local Food Links Chief Executive Caroline Morgan described the support package from Dorset Growth Hub as ‘pivotal’, adding: “They enabled our expansion to happen. Without them we wouldn’t have been able to increase our output or match the geographic reach additional schools required.”

The package included workshops and courses in IT, marketing and social media, a ‘digital capability grant’ and help with claiming a financial contribution from the ERDF, the European Regional Development Fund.

Caroline added: “The team at Dorset Growth Hub have offered sound, clear advice. They understood where we were coming from straight away – they got it – and helped us ask all the right questions at the right stage. Working with them has been really straightforward. Their input has made such a positive difference to us as a local business trying to grow our output.”

The 1,800 sq ft Weymouth kitchen, on the town’s Granby Industrial Estate, is Local Food Links’ fourth production centre. It also operates from Bridport, Blandford and Shillingstone as an approved schools caterer to Dorset County Council.

As all its fresh ingredients are sourced locally, the organisation’s expansion is good news for long-standing Dorset food suppliers including egg producers, butchers and vegetable growers.

Dawn Leader, Access to Finance Manager at Dorset Growth Hub, said: “Thanks to the growth of Local Food Links, hundreds of Dorset families are benefiting from extra choice in the meals their children eat at school and jobs are being supported in the food production supply chain.”

The expansion also helped Local Food Links win the Scale Up category at the South West FSB Celebrating Small Business Awards in February 2019. The company will now go forward to compete in national finals in May.

For more information on Dorset Growth Hub call 03454 586 480 or join the discussion on Twitter following @dorsetgrowthhub #TalkToTony.

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