Catering Tender for Schools- What is the process?

May 06, 2023 editor

The .GOV guidance below summarises your considerations. Red Box have provided further annotation to support you in determining if you are in a position to tender and how long the process will take.

According to the .GOV guidance

Before you start, it’s important to understand:

  • how long buying catering services will take- Red Box would advocate minimum 6 months
  • what steps you need to take - Red Box are able to support from information gathering stages, document writing, supporting or hosting contractor site visits, correspondence with prospective partners, bid receipt and evaluation. We also support with contract signing post award.
  • how to plan any changes - Red Box are able to advise on any changes to service recommendation and or evaluate contractor responses to any change management.

The steps below can help you manage the changes you may want to make.

End an existing contract

Find out your school’s existing catering contract:

  • end date
  • notice period

This will help you to plan any changes if you decide to switch contract. You will need to provide written notice to your current contractor and local government pension scheme administrators ahead of any tender process. 

Talk to the staff involved

Before you make any changes, you should talk to:

  • school governors
  • senior leadership team
  • staff involved in school catering

Before talking to your staff, you may need to write a business case for the senior leadership team and school governors.

Try to:

  • keep your staff informed
  • address any concerns your staff have
  • be aware that staff may wish to contact their union- staff may be working for a third party provider and if this is the case, they will usually communicate a prospective tender process with their own staff. You may wish to be involved in these conversations. You will also need to lead the process within any pension transfers as part of TUPE and therefore notification of the LGPS provider will be your responsibility as the scheme employer.

Talk to other schools

You may find it helpful to:

  • ask other schools if they’re looking to renew their catering contract- we have always found group tenders gain more interest, investment and benefits in economic scales.
  • negotiate bulk deals and discounts with suppliers- Red Box can support with evaluating responses from contract partners.
  • Your school must comply with Standards for school food in England. Red Box can ensure that reputable prospective partners respond to qualitative questions effectively and assurances are available.

This may help you to get better value and spread the workload with other schools.

Start a new contract

It’s best to start a new contract:

  • at the beginning of the academic year
  • after long school holiday, for example, Christmas or Easter. This enables a mobilisation period to go smoothly and provide a clear break in services for a 'launch' and renewed interest in the services from parents and pupils.