How to receive the most fit for purpose catering solution with a return on investment
Catering tends to be one of the most expensive contracts a school will procure, but it is also the only service where you have the potential to generate a surplus. When procuring your next contract, it is really important to maximise its financial efficiency whilst obtaining a service that is fit for purpose and sustainable.
What to know before starting the tender process:
To get the most out of your catering contract, it’s worth looking to aggregate a single contract for all the schools within your Trust, or in your local area. This will increase your contract value, making your specification more attractive to suppliers, improving the chances of generating a surplus on the service via economies of scale and most importantly you’ll receive a higher quality service.
Make sure you dedicate the right amount of time for the tender process. Due to its complexity, an open tender can take 6-8 months to complete, whilst a framework can shorten the timescale to 3-4 months. If you move to a new supplier, you will also need to allow at least one month for the TUPE process, or longer if they are transferring staff on Local Government Pension Schemes. Due to the cost of catering contracts, additional approvals from stakeholders such as governors will be needed before the new contract can be awarded, so we would recommend pre-arranging these meetings and factoring them into the timetable to help manage this process without delaying the contract award.
What to include in your specification:
- Accurate data! Before you start the process make sure you gather your pupil numbers, universal free school meal numbers, meal uptake data, service times and current meal prices. Also make sure you have received your workforce data from your incumbent supplier at the outset as this is required for the tender process to enable bidders to accurately cost the labour element of the contract.
- Who owns your current catering equipment – you or the incumbent supplier? This includes heavy and light equipment along with any cash collection systems.
- Record all dietary requirements, for example if there is a need for halal or if you would like to have seasonal produce, meat and dairy free days, or even themed meals, this should be included in your specification.
Make sure you focus on meal pricing:
It is really important to be clear about your expected meal prices from the start of the process so suppliers can budget their costs accordingly. If the sales of your catering function exceed what is budgeted, a surplus can be generated and a possible profit-sharing arrangement with a contractor is possible.
Primary school services often provide a set menu with a single price per year group, with meals ordered in advance. KS1 meals tend to be set at or around the government’s Universal Infant Free School Meal price which is currently £2.34. KS2 meal prices can vary by school and region however this is typically around the UIFSM price.
Secondary school menus tend to be more varied, with a range of items and prices, therefore there is a much lower level of pre-ordering. It is important to define your pricing; you can either have a pre-defined pricing tariff that the supplier’s menus need to meet, or work on bespoke menus and offerings with the successful supplier.
If you’d like to discuss your catering contract with us, contact us today at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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