WilcoxBurchmore has transformed the catering operation at Abbey College, an independent sixth form college in Birmingham with 140 students, half of whom are from overseas.
Over the summer holidays, a neighbouring building was overhauled a to create a common room and on-site catering facility, leaving the London-based outfit to oversee the kitchen design.
The school’s principal, Stephen Robinson, commented: “This project was all about improving the student experience. We have not previously offered food on-site, nor have we had a common area where students can gather to study, chat or eat.
“As so many of our students are international, we felt it was important to give all of them a place to mingle and sit together.
“I have worked overseas myself, and know how important it is to have home comforts and somewhere to feel you belong. The newly created ‘Hub’ does just that. Another benefit of the new space is that the college now has somewhere to host large gatherings.”
With a £100k budget, WilcoxBurchmore created a bright and airy common room area with several types of seating areas including tables with lime green benches, bar stools and round tables, and coffee shop-style bucket chairs and low tables.
“This leads onto the kitchen and servery area which was designed and fitted out by WilcoxBurchmore, and is run by The Brookwood Partnership.
Betty Ho, director of international admissions commented: “We have over 20 nationalities here including students from China, Nigeria, Libya, Sweden, Vietnam and Kazakhstan. Trying to cater for their different tastes is a challenge, but we are determined to get it right, and the menu is evolving all the time. Our chef is putting on a tasting evening next week so they can try different things.”
Some of the international students live in college accommodation and have food included, some live with host families and have their breakfast and evening meals with the family.
Many domestic students travel in from around Birmingham which is renowned for its traffic and transport problems.
One of the benefits of having food on site is that students can travel in early to avoid the rush hour, and have breakfast on site. The college can also ensure that healthy options are readily available.
Betty Ho observed:“The English breakfast is proving very popular, particularly with the boys. We always have plenty of fruit, salad and vegetables on offer so we can encourage healthy eating.”
WilcoxBurchmore director, Cathy Wilcox said:“There’s a very special atmosphere in the college of believing the best of everyone and that really did permeate to all the people working on the project.
The builder hadn’t worked with a commercial kitchen installer before, so our requests were quite alien to him, but we went up weekly and spoke often on the phone and formed an excellent relationship – both helping each other."
Wilcox continued: “Boss Furniture provided the seating and benches, chosen because of the quality of finish and colours available while Counterline Counters were used due to their good design and quality.
"Rational combi ovens were specified for their reliabillity and excellent quality and a Hobart dishwasher from the Ecomax range was also installed. A good price for Cedabond members was available for this model, and we were able to pass this onto the client.”