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Catering Procurement: A Recipe for Success


By Lee Duckworth

Buying catering solutions can be one of the most complex areas of procurement, yet catering and hospitality services are fundamental to schools, colleges and academies across the education sector.

Without proper expertise, experience, and an understanding of the marketplace, it can be easy to miss opportunities. In fact, catering services can be one of the biggest areas to maximise return on investment, drive innovation, and secure value for money.

So, what are the main challenges, and what should we be doing to ensure a smooth and successful catering procurement process?

Tenet have a well established Catering Procurement Service and our catering specialists have put together some tips and challenges to help you concoct your recipe for success.

Catering Procurement: The Challenges

  • Financial Data:

The financials that are submitted by potential providers can be complex and difficult to decipher. Do you understand what is being invested, and your organisation’s contribution? Do the projected returns add up? Are the costs fully transparent?

You could be offered a nil-cost solution, which might sound great – until you realise that you could actually be missing out on a lucrative profit sharing deal!

  • Lack of Sector Knowledge

Without a firm knowledge of the fast-moving catering marketplace, it can be difficult to understand the commercial drivers behind service design and supplier solutions. How will you understand expected profit margins? Do you know what food and labour costs should be? Are you prepared to consider new legislation?

  • Operational Understanding

For professionals buying catering services in the education sector, you must understand both the market and the Public Contract Regulations. Failure to consider either could spell disaster for your tender process. Therefore, professionals must ensure they research both the catering industry and relevant EU procurement legislation, before going out to market. Are you confident that you know both?

Catering Procurement: Top Tips

  • Know the Marketplace

Many procurement professionals do not have expertise in catering. Therefore, before conducting any tender process – before even designing a specification – it is important to do research, seek expert advice, and learn about the industry. This alone can be time consuming, so ensure enough time is built into your tender process.

Tenet’s team of specialists have extensive experience in catering operations, and can provide expert guidance to help you navigate the marketplace.

  • Use a Framework Agreement

Save your organisation time, money, and potential legal challenges by using a ready-made framework agreement, such as Crescent Purchasing Consortium’s Outsourced Catering Services.

By using a framework agreement, all supplier pre-qualification is already complete, so you can be assured of their credentials. With template documents, specifications, and evaluation criteria, using a framework agreement will not only save time completing an OJEU advert, but will help you to design the best service to meet your institution’s needs.

    • Engage Experts

Even using a framework agreement, you may not have sufficient catering expertise in-house to ensure that you get maximum results from your catering contract. That is why many organisations, especially in the education sector, turn to expert catering providers to help manage the procurement and contracting process.

What a Catering Specialist Can Do:

    • Evaluate your current service, and highlight areas for improvement.
    • Design innovative solutions to meet your specific business needs.
    • Signpost you towards capital investment opportunities.
    • Produce specifications and tender documentations.
    • Evaluate tender returns and lead supplier presentations.
    • Appoint and manage the successful supplier across the contract lifecycle.

What to Look Out for When Choosing a Consultancy:

  • Do they have sufficient experience and expertise?
  • Do they understand your sector, its drivers and challenges?
  • Do they specialise in the areas you require?
  • Will they ensure that you are compliant with UK and EU public procurement legislation?

Tenet’s Catering Procurement Service

Tenet offer an enhanced Catering Procurement Service. Our team of Catering Specialists have 90 years’ combined industry experience, and are experts in all aspects of catering and hospitality, particularly in the education sector. We work with organisations to create low-cost solutions, from advice and guidance to fully managed tender processes, tailored to meet individual needs.

We have achieved success for a range of schools and colleges: transforming loss-making operations, securing large-scale investments, installing cutting-edge facilities, driving quality and innovation, and maximising profit for our clients.

Our catering experts are supported by procurement professionals, so we can ensure full compliance with legislation, while getting the best commercial results. What’s more, we are the only company owned by the education sector and run for the education sector, meaning that our profits go back to schools, colleges, and academies.

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