Steak and lobster on the menu for soldiers – if they pay for it

Troops have protested about what has been served including meals containing undercooked chicken and food infested with maggot
Troops have protested about what has been served including meals containing undercooked chicken and food infested with maggot - HEATHCLIFF O'MALLEY

Defence chiefs have claimed that soldiers can eat steak and lobster for lunch and dinner every day – providing they are willing to pay for it. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has said that a major revamp of their catering facilities across the UK will mean that troops will receive better quality food and value for money, with units being allowed to decide what they want on the menu.

According to a warrant officer responsible for overseeing the quality of food served across the UK, this means troops can have whatever they choose.

In an article in this month’s issue of Soldier magazine, Warrant Officer 1st Class Colin Sinclair, of the Royal Logistics Corps, said: “If the decision is their personnel would like steak or lobster added to the menu, then so be it.

“But they will pay the cost price at the till for these foods, plus VAT and a small 5 per cent surcharge for wastage.”

The MoD’s attempt to improve the quality of food served to troops in barracks comes after years of complaints by troops that meals at many bases are substandard and poorly cooked.

In some cases troops have protested about what has been served up by posting pictures on social media of meals containing undercooked chicken and food infested with maggots.

Two years ago, a soldier based at Windsor Castle filmed a maggot crawling across his plate, and another sailor based at HMS Nelson in Portsmouth posted a picture of a maggot he found in his plate of pasta.

Meals on all military bases are now produced by private contractors, such as the outsourcing company Sodexo, and soldiers pay for each meal under a scheme called pay as you dine, meaning they only pay for meals they eat.

Under the new strategy, individual units will have representatives on a base dining committee alongside reps from the private contractor responsible for producing the meals to decide what goes on menus so they can be tailored to their preferences.

Operating model

WO1 Sinclair added: “The operating model is changing from next month and the contractors will now receive a fixed fee from defence for their services at each location, rather than building in margins on food and drink – normally sold as a retail offer.

“This is vital for personnel to understand as it means there will be far more flexibility, potentially, around what goes on their plates and there will be opportunity to address the quality and quantity of food currently set by the core meal requirements.”

The latest move follows an overhaul of the food being served up to troops and draws on the results from a recently concluded pilot programme conducted at six military units, which looked at how to enhance what was described as the Army’s “dining experience”.

The scheme is aiming to improve food and facilities, with more flexibility in dining times, wider choices and better quality meals.

According to the MoD, a key element of the initiative is providing the meals at cost price, with no in-built profit on each item sold.

The plan also includes a radical £52m revamp of cookhouses and leisure and retail areas across UK bases that will take place over the next year or so.

A MoD spokesperson said: “Our people are our most important asset, and we strive to make their experience the best it can be.

“We’ve listened to the views of our personnel on catering provision and will shortly be introducing a number of changes to provide greater flexibility in dining times, and healthier choices.”