The Educational Twist in York’s Newest Dining Experience

In March this year, a new innovative takeaway concept was launched in York that has the potential to transform how the hospitality sector operates and integrates with local communities. School Kitchen is the brainchild of David Nicholson, CEO and founder, who has partnered with local schools to take over their kitchens on evenings and weekends when they are not in use. The team run home delivery and takeaway restaurants from the kitchen, giving the school a share of all revenue generated.

“The original idea I had was to see if I could come up with a new model for takeaway restaurants that had a positive impact on communities, on the people involved, and on the environment, while still being a viable business,” says David. “This focus on communities led to the idea of working with schools, and the concept of School Kitchen developed from there.”

Employing local chefs from diverse culinary backgrounds to run multiple restaurants, School Kitchen offers a broad menu of Mexican, Thai, Spanish and Sri Lankan dishes and have ambitious plans for growth. “We will look to make menu changes around every 6 months. Eventually, we will be rolling out around 20 menus.” comments Neil Meyer, Head of Operations, School Kitchen.

The team are set to introduce a further six restaurants this summer and will be incorporating a second school into their portfolio of premises. Everyone involved is focused on delivering great quality food but are driven by making a difference in their community, sourcing ingredients from local producers, using electric mopeds or bicycles for delivery and purchasing recyclable or compostable packaging. “We also do cooking demonstrations for the pupils, and will be showing them how to grow fruit and vegetables, once we get our kitchen garden up and running at the school in May.” says David.

Participating schools not only benefit from a share of the revenue and educational activities, they also benefit from improved infrastructure such as solar panels to cover energy use within the kitchen and upgraded equipment. “We try to make sure we do not use their utensils,” notes Neil. “We have also upgraded certain pieces of equipment for them to use as a thank you.”

David is keen to roll the program out to as many locations as possible but is mindful that the model is not replicable in every school. “There are some factors which can impact how viable the model is in some schools. For example, limited availability of space for cold and dry storage and poor accessibility to the kitchens from outside can both present challenges,” says David. “We are refining the model as we go to account for these factors, though, so we hope to be able to partner with most schools who are interested in doing so.”

Still in the early stages of launch, School Kitchen is currently available for customers to order online or via mobile app and operates during the evening from Tuesday to Saturday each week. “Eventually, we plan to be available every evening and for brunch/lunch on weekends too,” he says.

David is planning to run an apprenticeship partnership with York College this September and wants to partner with other colleges to broaden the apprenticeship program and constantly feed the growing business with fresh talent. Fueled by ambition to succeed, he is also looking for new schools to work with in cities and towns across the country.

Could this be the answer to the educational funding and hospitality overhead crises we have been searching for? We certainly hope so!