The unit serving three Southampton hospitals has - in partnership with staff from Compass Group - set about achieving the provision of economical but appetising food as championed by government troubleshooter Loyd Grossman.
The approach blends tight management, including targets for cutting waste, with innovation - such as introducing finger food for some patients. The 22 chefs in the 235-strong catering team have won awards for their cooking to go with the department's Charter Mark for excellent customer service.
Nearly half the 6,000 meals a day are eaten by hospital staff and visitors.
RBS BUSINESS BANKING, financial services
Highly commended last year, the Royal Bank of Scotland's business banking arm still impresses with the dedication it shows in its pursuit of excellent customer service, which senior management sees as key to growth. 'Service excellence is the core of our focus and energy,' says Jason Oakley, head of business banking. RBS has the processes to realise its ambition, but it also stresses flexibility. Thus, providing business customers with dedicated relationship managers is complemented by options enabling individual businesses to choose between online banking, phone services or face-to-face contact, depending on their circumstances and needs.
SIMON JERSEY LTD, business-to-business
Corporate clothing supplier Simon Jersey won last year's Learning Organisation award, and was shortlisted the year before. It is being reorganised by its new owners but remains focused on providing clothing for employees of businesses that include Hertz, Boots and many hotels and catering firms.
It is firmly rooted in its heritage, with technical director Richard Mullen just one of many long-serving employees who worked their way up. Based in a striking modern building, it employs design teams to ensure that its clothing appeals to employees' fashion sense, and uses the latest techniques for analysing business performance to help generate product ideas.
SKANDIA UK GROUP, financial services
A first-time entrant, the UK arm of Swedish financial services group Skandia enjoys a strong reputation in the industry for its pensions and investment schemes. The essence of its business is to give customers 'the freedom to choose the best financial products to suit their individual circumstances'. To this end, it sells only through IFAs, regarding them as its primary customers. It bought Bankhall, a specialist provider of support services, to strengthen these relationships. Skandia has introduced a multi-manager approach for products such as ISAs to give customers access to a greater range of investments than is possible with a single fund manager.
THE PETCARECO LTD, retail and consumer services
Consumer Services category winner last year, the Triple 'A' Pet Resort & Care Centre (as was) continues to set high standards in its field. When owners go away, they can arrange for all manner of creature comforts - from TVs to sofas - to be fitted to their pet's temporary 'apartment'.
And with the corporate muscle of Mars, whose pet food division has taken a majority shareholding, the firm is looking to add to the high-tech 'one-stop pet care centre' at its base near Washington, Tyne & Wear with other Triple 'A' sites around Britain and elsewhere. PetCareCo continues to add new facilities, such as a hydrotherapy pool and a bespoke vet service.
YORKSHIRE BUILDING SOCIETY, financial services
Like the Nationwide, Yorkshire BS sees its mutual status as critical to its ability to provide top-notch service to its members. Says CEO David Anderson: 'We want to be a role model for a mutual in the 21st century.
We believe we can run the organisation based on a different premise from most of our competitors.' With about 1,800 staff and 230 or so branches and agencies, mainly in the north of England, the Bradford-based organisation is small, which gives it a friendly feel at odds with some of its big rivals. Although the organisation will be able to retain mutuality only if it demonstrates its efficiency, the management team stress the need for fun and approachability.
VETERANS AGENCY, public services
A lot has happened to the agency that deals with the pensions and welfare of disabled armed services personnel since it won the Public Services award last year. The organisation was transferred from the DSS to the Ministry of Defence, then its name was changed from the War Pensions Agency to the Veterans Agency, to reflect its larger role in providing services to all ex-service personnel. The agency management - still headed by acting CEO Alan Burnham - seems more than ready to meet the challenge. Giving its 1,000-odd staff more work to do in the face of a declining veteran population is a 'boost for our people', according to Burnham.
MACE LTD, manufacturing/engineering
Formed in '89 as a construction management company, Mace has expanded to offer a wide range of advice and services related to construction and property. It is closely involved in efforts to make the industry more efficient and better-run, and has won awards for its part in projects such as the London Eye and the new GlaxoSmithKline HQ. Mace believes its dedication to service plays a key part in its 60% customer retention rate.
It has developed close relationships with bodies such as BAA, with which it is working on Heathrow Terminal Five and the Stansted Airport extension.
The firm has a best-practice manager dedicated to constructing customer satisfaction surveys.
COUNTRYWIDE PORTER NOVELLI, business-to-business
PR consultancy Countrywide Porter Novelli was shortlisted in the B2B category last year and the year before, and it continues to set impressive standards for its sector. With clients such as Norwich Union, Heinz and the DTI, the US-owned business is one of the leading communications agencies in Europe. Senior managers attribute much of its success to its 'closer to' philosophy: getting closer to its audiences through investment in research and strategic planning, so that campaigns are based on evidence; and closer to clients, to gain a better understanding of their businesses and to be better placed to take an industry lead on topical issues.
RACKSPACE MANAGED HOSTING LTD, business-to-business
With just 10 employees based in a computer complex by Heathrow airport, Rackspace Managed Hosting is no household name in the UK. But in the US, where it was founded in '98, it is becoming a force in the competitive market for providing serviced internet infrastructures for small and medium-sized companies. For Dominic Monkhouse, MD for Europe, chief among the factors that make the firm stand out is its trademarked concept of Fanatical Customer Support. This means 'no answering machines or voice mail - real people 24 hours a day'. With 96% of customers recommending the service to others, they are becoming as fanatical as the staff.