In-House and Contract Catering in the Independent School Sector

Nov 24, 2021 editor

Food within the independent school marketplace is a cornerstone for parents and pupils. With a focus on nutrition, sporting endurance, welfare and mental health all being attributed to a catering service within your prospectus, the advice from Red Box would be to ensure your dining experience is a positive one. Are you at a crossroads in determining if your facilities should take these services in-house or to outsource? Red Box summarises the two positions.

Consideration for an in-house service should be

A strong catering manager who can oversee all aspects of food quality, due diligence, assurance and team management.

A dedicated and reliable team

A strong supply chain or third party procurement expert


Benefits of an in-house service

In-house staff inclusion


Value for money

Economies in scale for payroll, and HR which are already established within the School

Development of key people to support dietetic advice


Benefits of a contracted service

Some investment in facilities

Head office support for HR, procurement, due diligence

Dietetic advice and expertise

Collaborative approach to the service with new industry practices being shared

Defined direction of travel through KPIs

Option to shortlist potential bidders before receiving detailed proposals


Cost considerations of an in-house service

It can be difficult to determine the overall cost where shared internal services such as HR, payroll and staff management are likely to fall within the larger pot.

An in-house model supports opportunities to be leaner or add value when required.

A Catering Manager will need to be compensated for the additional levels of responsibility where a more centralised function is not supporting.


Cost considerations of a contracted service

This is usually operated on a Cost-plus model with management fee of around 5% of the totoal cost of food, labour and sundries.

Option to look at a fixed price model whereby the School has some control over their outgoings, with a profit share for any betterment.

Food prices are inclusive of rebate provided to the contractors and this is how most of their income is made- making is hard to benchmark the overall food costs.

Where a proposal does not quite meet your needs, there are opportunities to negotiate the bid with the contractor.