Two Years of CRL

Yes it really has been two years of Catering, Retail & Leisure at RAF Marham, and to almost quote a line from an epic film, “WHAT HAVE ISS DONE FOR US?”

Since “mobilisation” on June 1st 2011 there have been many changes in the in the world of CRL throughout the RAF. Some of the initial changes were not well received and there are still a few individuals that “Don’t like change” and find it difficult to accept the concept of CRL. It has been the feedback from customers, especially those that were unhappy at some of the changes, that has helped ISS to improve their service in all departments.

This has been particularly seen in the Catering element. Since the introduction of Pay as You Dine (PAYD) in September 2011 there has been 3 “Refreshes” of the menu, all based on customer comments and “Stick, Twist or Bust” whereby the customers popular dishes remained, average dishes were enhanced and unpopular were discarded to be replaced by items requested by the customer. The April refresh saw a total of 101 new or improved menu choices added to the range including the addition of 31 new classic lunches, 15 new dinner classic meals & 12 new Healthy eating options. There was a drop in the price of the Classic meal, and an average 5% rise in retail items, however this has not deterred the customer from eating from the retail range. At the onset of PAYD over 95% of customers were choosing the classic option, now the average at RAF Marham is less than 40% opting for the classic. In other areas of catering the daily lunchtime carvery has proved extremely successful in the JRM and despite the closure of the Sergeants’ Mess kitchen this has not stopped members enjoying Formal & Informal functions and regular top tables in their own Mess. The JRM Function Suite has also become a popular venue for all ranks Formal functions.

The Retail element saw major refurbishment to both Community & Service SPARs with the addition of a small café area in the Services shop. The introduction of Real Deals, a small drop in prices, the introduction of many new lines and branded items has seen an increase in the use of both these facilities; however the most feedback received is that of the high prices compared to those of the large Supermarket chains. Unfortunately our providers do not have the “buying power” of the larger chains so this reflects in the retail prices making them more comparable with the “Corner Shop” in towns/cities and smaller supermarkets in rural areas. The introduction of the “Bapmobile” on the main camp area has proved popular to those who do not want to venture too far from work at lunchtime or for those who fancy a snack during the day.

The two main areas in the Leisure element are Louis’ Bar including the Grafton Club and The Bull Lounge Café Bar. Louis’ Bar and the Grafton Club have been completely transformed during the last 2 years. Following initial decoration by ISS the Grafton Club has been made a very comfortable venue with the addition of furniture, paintings and a five metre screen & projector provided by the RAF. The screen is used by the Station Cinema Club to show family films on a Sunday afternoon & the latest releases on a Monday evening. The Grafton Club has been used for private functions in addition to the larger functions such as the JRM Summer Ball & Christmas Dance. By the time this edition of Marham Matters goes to print the Grafton Club will have hosted the Funny Fokker’s Comedy tour, the first large scale entertainment event staged by ISS.

During the day Louis’ Lounge Café Bar has become a popular meeting venue being proud to serve Costa Coffee, baked potatoes is a new addition to the menu offering a healthy choice to those who have requested it. The closeness to domestic areas, the comfort, competitively priced food & drink, large TV screens with SKY, fortnightly quiz nights with an envelope draw and regular Friday night disco’s, make Louis’ a popular venue. As is the Bull Lounge Café Bar. Most personnel will be aware the Bowling lanes have been removed and extensive refurbishment is currently taking place, which when complete will benefit all of the community. The introduction of the New Menu in The Lounge Bar has proved a great success. Once again feedback from Marham personnel was the foundation for the choices on the menu. The Bull is also popular as a fund raising and children’s or adults party venue. There is no hire charge and an extensive range of food and drink.

Tying in all three elements of CRL is the Loyalty Card. Still in the development stage the loyalty card will earn you three points for every £1 spent in all ISS outlets, on all CRL and 22 Group Units, and points can be redeemed in all outlets when requested. All areas are keen to support fund raising activities and staff regularly partake and to date staff have helped in raising over £5,000 for several worthy causes.

So to answer “WHAT HAVE ISS DONE FOR US?”. This article may read as biased towards ISS, but prior to my joining the company I completed almost 39 years in the Royal Air Force in the Catering trade, and in the first two years of the contract I think that ISS have brought a lot of improvements to the CRL areas, and with your help through feedback will do more to improve our service to you.

If you have any suggestions or comments please do not hesitate to contact me at