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Article Details

Published Date: 20-09-2023
Author: Ciaran Brass
Category: Tender Writing & Bid Management
Connect with Ciaran Brass

Catering, food and beverage services are just one of many industries where government contracts are published every day. Public sector buyers have a large and pressing need to procure reliable and nutritious food for a range of needs – leading them to source suppliers of all sizes and backgrounds.

Catering service users for government tenders include hospital patients, refugees staying in temporary accommodation, those in assisted living facilities and students in schools and universities.

What type of catering tenders are available

As with any other industry, there is no such thing as a ‘typical’ catering tender. As outlined above, public sector authorities have a wide range of service users and requirements, which ultimately impact the size, scope and service provision. To illustrate, the following contract notices have been published since the beginning of the month:

Opportunity Purchasing Authority Contract Value
Healthcare soft facilities management services, including a catering lot Crown Commercial Services £3.5 billion across multiple lots and providers
Catering services Stoke Newington School and Sixth Form £2.5 million
Catering tender Westfield Academy £932,000
East England Forest District Catering Concessions Forestry England Unspecified
CA12173 – Outsourced Catering Services The Manor Trust Unspecified
In-flight catering supply Leidos Supply Ltd. £4.5 million to £6.5 million

Common quality topics in catering tenders

Each tender will contain a different set of questions determined as most relevant by the buyer’s representatives and evaluation team. However, common topics in catering tenders include the following:

  • Quality control and assurance: Consistency in quality and portion control are paramount to ensure buyers and service users alike receive a quality service. Relevant responses give the opportunity to evidence your documented processes for ensuring quality control, such as food traceability from suppliers, detailed record-keeping for production/storage and standardised portion sizes for vegetables and protein.
  • Supply chain management: Assuring a steady supply of materials and uninterrupted service is crucial within catering. This can be evidenced by processes for selecting and maintaining agreements with multiple suppliers, robust measures for managing stock levels and contingency procedures should supply chains be impacted – for example, grain shortages due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
  • Cost control: Recent fluctuations in food prices will be at the forefront of buyers’ minds before and during the tender evaluation period. Apart from pricing schedules, quality topics may include how you assure the best available price for ingredients, through horizon scanning, market research and strong supplier agreements.
  • Reducing waste and delivering environmentally friendly services: Despite 8.4 million UK residents classified as being in food poverty, around 5 million tonnes of food waste is produced each year. Authorities will want to know what control measures are in place for minimising not only food waste, but cardboard and single-use plastics stemming from bulk deliveries. As part of providing an environmentally friendly service, you should also explain how deliveries are consolidated and optimised, thereby reducing emissions and food miles.

How can your organisation prepare for bidding?

Bidding for government tenders requires strong organisational and project management skills to ensure a compliant, high-quality bid. To facilitate a strategic tendering approach, you should adhere to the following guidelines as a minimum:

  • Identify a suitable contract: Free-to-use government websites such as Find a Tender, Contracts Finder and Public Contracts Scotland release catering opportunities on a daily basis. Monitoring these websites on a regular basis will enable you to proactively identify contracts which align with the services you offer and the geographic region.
  • Certify you can effectively resource the opportunity: Once a contract has been identified, a resource-mapping exercise should be performed by senior members of your organisation. This will ensure you can dedicate the correct number of staff and supply chain resources to the opportunity, laying the foundation for a strong, competitive tender.
  • Perform site visits: Many public sector clients will require prospective tenderers to attend sites to gain further understanding of the service users’ base and logistical requirements and to pose questions to buyer representatives. Visits should be completed by a suitably qualified senior member of the team, such as the provisionally assigned contract manager.
  • Set timescales for project completion: Adhering to a project-specific timeline will avoid any last-minute rushes prior to the submission deadline. If you are not confident you have the time, knowledge or experience to complete quality questions using in-house resource, explore seeking professional support.

Support with catering contracts and frameworks

Executive Compass have extensive experience providing high-quality PQQ, SQ and ITT support to clients tendering for catering contracts. Recent examples include successful submissions for ESPO’s ready meals framework, Scotland Excel, primary schools, botanical gardens, and religious festivals and events.

If you have identified a catering opportunity suitable for your organisation or would like to find out more about the bid and tender services we provide, our sales and marketing team are available at 0800 612 5563 and via email for a no-obligation, informal chat and bespoke quotation.


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