Defence Catering

Last year, we served 16.5 million meals to our Defence customers.

We recognise the importance of food to our Armed Forces. It’s not just about fuelling Service Personnel to fulfil their daily tasks but about bringing them together as a community whether through a daily meal, formal mess function or celebratory event.

Whatever the occasion, we pride ourselves on providing freshly cooked, beautifully presented dishes using high quality ingredients.

Many of our colleagues started their careers in the Armed Forces and our teams feel privileged to support the Defence sector across the UK.   

An ESS chef drizzles sweet chilli sauce over a chicken skewer on a bed of noodles


Our chefs are supported by a talented and experienced team, including regional executive chefs, our culinary director, our registered nutritionists and Service Catering Personnel. 

We’re committed to nurturing the talent within our business and offer a range of apprenticeships at all levels to develop our people. We currently have 66 colleagues completing foodservice apprenticeships within Defence, including chefs on the prestigious Level 4/5 ‘Forward with Marcus Wareing’ programme.

Our teams are encouraged to enter competitions to improve their skills and confidence in the kitchen. Regular events include Compass Chef of the Year, HRC Salon Culinaire and the Army Sustainer.

ESS defence catering chefs standing at a conference


Our culinary team collaborates with our registered nutritionists, clients and customers to design appetising, tasty, nutritious recipes that offer choice and value to our customers and support their wellbeing.

Our offer is compliant with JSP 456 and our menus are signed off by an internal chef forum, a client partnering group and the Institute of Naval Medicine (INM).

Our ingredients guarantee compliance with Government Buying Standards. The requirements are complex, but we are experienced in delivering them.


Our customers have access to a variety of contemporary and traditional retail meal concepts developed by our chefs based on consumer insight and market trends.

Our Global Kitchen concepts deliver a world of flavours to our customers, including Mexican Fiesta, Taste of India, Sagra Italia and Ministry of Burgers.

Our chefs use fresh ingredients to create dishes that are colourful, appealing and full of flavour. Healthy, sustainable plant-forward options are integrated into main menus to cater for a variety of tastes.

Giving service personnel a restaurant dining experience is important to us and we partner with Churchill crockery to ensure the very best presentation.

Two bao buns sit on a grey plate, filled with chicken, red chilli and spring onion


Our hospitality capability is wide-ranging, from working lunches through to fine dining, and we regularly cater for high profile functions with VIP guests.

When it comes to delivering events, we enjoy a challenge! Whether we’re preparing drinks, canapes and a three-course meal for hundreds out of a military field kitchen or catering for thousands as part of a graduation, our teams rise to the occasion. We cover client events such as air shows, family days and regimental anniversaries which require different feeding formats.

We work collaboratively to create bespoke menus and our teams support in the planning and delivery of every aspect of the day.

A close up shot of ham and asparagus canapes


We cater for Service Personnel away from their messes too.

This includes the delivery of packed meals, transit meals, hot boxes and emergency short notice feeding support to ensure operational capability is maintained.

Last year, we prepared 1.2 million packed meals to feed those out on training and exercises. Our chefs also prepare hot food in field kitchens in support of planned and unplanned events.

We were proud to support military personnel from across the world in training for the State Funeral of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the Coronation of Their Majesties King Charles III and Queen Camilla.


An ESS defence catering chef serves food in a field kitchen


Many of our customers live and work on site meaning we have an important role to play in their wellbeing. Our registered nutritionists work with our chefs to design a healthy, enticing food offer.

Healthier dishes are integrated into main menus to nudge customers towards these choices. They include extensive plant-forward options and healthier desserts using fruit, and sometimes vegetables too! 

We provide wellbeing guidance and resources to support customer decision making, including workshops, client events and information via webinars and our Wellness Magazine.

An aerial shot of a chicken skewer on top on a bed of noodles