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Impact of Covid-19 on the Outsourced Catering marketplace


There aren’t many areas that haven’t been impacted by Covid-19 and the closure of campuses and reduction of students on site will no doubt have had the biggest impact on the delivery of your catering services. 

We asked Tenet Education Services Catering Consultant, Jonathan Whittle what his thoughts were on the current catering marketplace.

What is the appetite from catering suppliers in the marketplace to respond to catering tenders at the moment, given the uncertainty on student numbers and therefore achievable catering sales? 

Jonathan’s view: “There is no shortage of suppliers responding to tenders at the moment. Catering suppliers are keen to secure cash flow from new business. Recent tenders have seen twice the normal number of bidders which is fantastic for competition and competitive tender proposals.”

How are you approaching the student number data when developing your invitation to tender, what sort of information are schools and colleges able to provide about footfall and are contractors willing to tender based on this information?

Jonathan’s view: “Accurate data is being used from till sales data, that said we are bidding on pre Covid-19 sales levels as it's impossible to factor in any sensible solution otherwise, with Covid-19 related caveats applying though. Some schools are trading at near normal levels. It depends on how the school is arranging breaks and lunch. If they go for a staggered approach the caterers are doing OK. If delivered to classrooms or packed lunches only; it's hitting trade enormously.”

Is it likely that nil cost catering contracts are a thing of the past?

Jonathan’s view: “No, it depends on the school's approach. A recent tender for a school in Gloucestershire has seen a return of up to £200k still guaranteed over 5 years (although this will be reduced to £160k years 2-5 in reality due to Covid-19 adjustments from this year).”

If a school or college has an allowable extension on their catering contract, would it be sensible for them to extend their existing contract at this present time?

Jonathan’s view “For any contracts starting 1 August 2021 I’d still recommend going out to market to competitively tender. It’s now too late for Easter in reality, apart from in exceptional circumstances.”

What are your thoughts on how the catering market might progress over the coming year?

Jonathan’s view: “If you’d asked me this back in August I would have said - I feel the supplier landscape will be different next year. There is potential for some business failures over the next nine months.  Some of the larger catering suppliers will struggle with cash flow, although the extension of the furlough scheme will no doubt help.  However, looking forward with furlough and the great news on the vaccine front we expect school operations to stabilise and hopefully back to normal from Easter 2021.  A robust tendering process will provide the institution with some assurance that the stability of a business has been assessed and will continue to trade and deliver the service expected.”

The CPC framework agreement for Outsourced Catering Services provides you with an easy to use procurement vehicle to tender catering contracts in compliance with the UK public sector procurement regulations.  The frameworks come with a suit of tender documentation including example specifications and terms and conditions of contract.  The framework has been split into geographical lots, enabling you to send your tender to suppliers working in your region.  Should you have any queries or would like more information on the framework, please contact Majid Khan, CPC Outsourced Catering Framework Manager on [email protected] or 0161 974 0949.

If you are looking for a catering consultant to help you tender your catering contract, please contact Tenet Education Services on 01376 511 411 or [email protected] for more information.

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