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Air Force renews food arrangement with Eurest

News release For immediate release

11 April 2006

Air Force flies on more than half a million privately-made meals a year

The Royal New Zealand Air Force has just renewed its food service arrangement with Eurest which has seen it contract-in more than 1.5 million meals during the past three years.

The arrangement also sees Eurest manage on-base accommodation for the Air Force and associated hospitality services.

According to the Air Force's Director of Support Services, Ian Brunton, the arrangement has "changed the whole dynamic" of managing quarters and rations for air force personnel.

And it puts the pressure on the catering and service provider to make sure the Air Force's about 2500 personnel like the food: They only pay for the meals they buy, which are recorded and invoiced via a personal swipe card. Previously there was a set charge.

The contracting-in of service also sees Eurest manage rooms at major Air force bases. Eurest staff can accommodate late-arriving personnel diverted by bad weather or on scheduled exercises, and special arrangements can be made for events such as the annual open days, rotated between Whenuapai in Auckland and Ohakea in the Manawatu.

In-flight catering staff, with their own kitchens at Whenuapai, Ohakea and Woodbourne bases, are also on 24-hour call to support emergency and Search and Rescue (SAR) operations.

During last June's major Pacific storm, when several yachts were helped by the Air Force, the Eurest catering team provided catering for crews conducting 13 back-to-back rescue flights for No 5 Squadron over nine days.

When the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami struck, the catering and accommodation teams again swung into action, assembling emergency blanket and other supplies which left with the Air Force in January 2005 as part of the country's aid mission in Indonesia.

The contract with Eurest has achieved major cost-per-meal efficiencies, and delivered a flat low-cost management structure. Eurest carries out all stock ordering, equipment maintenance, cleaning, financial and staff management. All staff are hospitality trained and there are quality audits.

The contracting-in means fewer staff are needed to prepare food. Some 156,195 breakfasts, 182,304 lunches, 164,038 dinners, 7949 cut lunches and 2682 rations in lieu were served up in 2005.

The contract also sees 17,500 meals served a year at mid-winter and spring training field camps, with Eurest staff working and sleep under canvas.

Ian Brunton says, apart from efficiencies gained, the force has also ensured highly quality food is provided – important from the safety point of view.

"We need the food to be taste good, be good nutritionally and be of good value. That's also good for morale."

Personnel are offered low-fat, vegetarian and two other choices of meal type. Captains and co-pilots are served with different meals, for safety reasons.

"We obviously can't have people in the air falling ill. Eurest has packaged up and delivered a consistent quality service."

The Air Force initially separately identified its estimated costs of providing accommodation and meals – less management costs. This gave it a basis on which to develop its new contracting-in model.

He says Eurest has also been able to deliver ongoing efficiencies because of its huge buying power in the catering market.

"At the macro level, we get what we need without the management overhead involved in procuring, preparing and delivering the product. For us it now has virtually no overhead. We have two senior managers from either side in contact, and each has a manager at each of the three bases – that's it.

"There's always been a hesitation in the military about letting out this type of contract, but our experience is certainly that its ideal for the New Zealand operations of the Air Force."

On the ground, the contract means a Eurest catering staffer carries a telephone at all times: It receives the same text message alerts from the Search and Rescue Centre as everyone else in the Air Force. And the catering staff can have fresh provisions added to pre-prepared boxes of rations (always on standby) ready within 30 minutes. Well within the force's two hour SAR response time.

And when the going gets tough – and stays tough for nine days, as it did last June – the Eurest site manager is in there preparing the food as well.

Says Brunton, "It is great to be associated with a service provider with the same service focus as us, and that is definitely one of the reasons why this contract works so well."


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