19 Mar

Catering Tenders: A complete guide to finding and securing catering contracts

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Catering Tenders: 9 tips for success

Finding the perfect catering tenders for your business can take a lot of time out of your day. Tendering for work can be quite overwhelming, particularly if you’ve never done it before. There’s a lot of technical jargon, acronyms and tendering procedures that can be confusing if you don’t know what’s what. However, it can be a great way to grow your business and is full of lucrative opportunities, particularly for SMEs.

This blog offers a complete guide to finding and securing catering tenders.

Let’s start with the basics…

What is a tender?

Tendering is an approach that is used to procure works, services or goods using a formal method. Tendering is used by both the public and private sectors and is essentially used to outsource a need.

Open tendering procedure

An open tendering procedure is often used within the public sector and is probably the simplest format of tendering procedure. This is process is commonly used to procure goods or services that are considered to be “straightforward”. A buyer creates an open tendering procedure, allowing any business to bid for their contract.

The tendering process often starts with an invitation to tender (ITT) being released. A supplier will then write their bid response and submit it to the buyer to examine and evaluate. Once the buyer has found a supplier that meets their needs, the contract will be awarded.

Restricted procedure

It is not uncommon for catering tenders and services to be procured via a restricted procedure. This is used to procure more complex goods or services. A buyer wants to establish a shortlist of bidders that they know can deliver the contract. A prospective supplier’s capabilities will be assessed at an initial pass/fail stage before receiving an ITT. There are often three stages to this tendering procedure.

The first stage is known as a pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ) or a selection questionnaire (SQ). A prospective buyer would need to complete either of these in order to progress onto the next stage. It’s essentially a box-ticking exercise set by the buyer to assess whether a supplier is eligible for a catering tender. You can expect to be asked for details of your:

  • Company’s contact information
  • Financial standing
  • Non-collusion
  • Grounds for exclusion
  • Health and safety policy
  • Food safety and hygiene policy
  • Environmental policy
  • Equality and diversity policy
  • Qualifications or required accreditations.

If a supplier is successful and meets the minimum eligibility requirements, they’ll then progress onto the ITT stage. Once their tender documents are submitted and evaluated, the contract is awarded.

Dynamic Purchasing Systems (DPS)

Another form in which catering services are bought is by Dynamic Purchasing Systems. A DPS for catering is essentially a pre-approved list of suppliers that buying organisations can invite to tender. Bidding opportunities are published to members that have been successful in winning a position on that list.

The process is similar to a restricted tender procedure in that a prospective supplier needs to submit as PQQ or SQ. They will then be approved to progress onto the ITT stage. An ITT may require the following:

  • General background to the company
  • Overview of the catering services
  • The reason for tendering
  • Evaluation criteria
  • Contract type
  • Response format required
  • Timetable
  • Service specification
  • How TUPE will be handled
  • Questions to respond to
  • Proposed contract
  • Costs included and excluded
  • Scope.

DPS’ are often split into lots. Each lot can be for an individual good, service or location. This means a company doesn’t have to fulfil every aspect of the contract. A business can then apply for the specific lot that they specialise in. An example of DPS catering lots are as follows:

Lot 1 – Fresh Meat & Poultry

Lot 2 – General Groceries

Lot 3 – Frozen Catering

Lot 4 – Milk

Or

Lot 1 – North East England

Lot 2 – West Midlands

Lot 3 – East Midlands

Lot 4 – South West England

Depending on the contact, a supplier may be able to apply for multiple lots. If this is the case, the maximum lots a business can apply for is typically capped at three. If applying to multiple lots within a DPS for catering, a buyer will require evidence that you have the resources. Often, you will need to provide concrete evidence that you have the capability to deliver on multiple lots.

What makes a DPS different from a typical tender process?

A supplier can apply to be on the DPS at any point while it is open. Even if you’re unsuccessful at securing a place, you can always try again in the future. A catering DPS can be a lucrative opportunity for your business, often running for multiple years. Another difference from the typical tender process is that a DPS is a completely electronic process.

What should be included in DPS catering tender documents? 

Building on the ITT tender information, a supplier may be required to provide the following information in their tender response:

  • Sample menus
  • Method statements for staff dining, hospitality, beverages
  • Description of support resources
  • Mobilisation plan
  • Supply chain information
  • Employee information for those proposed to work on the contract
  • Specific company policies
  • Your unique selling points.

The above examples could be asked for in catering tenders. However, each buyer has their own specifications, therefore their requirements will be outlined in the tender documents.

Three tips for success on a DPS for catering

  • Initiative and innovation

DPS’ for catering in schools now increasingly require you to demonstrate initiative and innovation. They are looking for suppliers to provide new food concepts to satisfy a wide range of tastes and dietary requirements.

  • Qualifications and accreditations

A buyer will most likely require a supplier to demonstrate relevant qualifications and accreditations. They want to be reassured that the supplier is qualified to carry out the job, demonstrating best practice.

Some examples of qualifications and accreditations required for catering tenders are:

  • Food Hygiene Level 3
  • NVQ in professional cookery
  • Level 2 Food Safety
  • ISO 9001; 14001
  • School Food regulations
  • HACCP
  • COSHH.

Qualifications and accreditations will vary depending on the catering contact your business is applying for.

  • Be persuasive and assertive

No matter the tender or the buyer, you should be persuasive and assertive in your written bid response. You should persuade the buyer that you are the best company for the job. Your written response should be clear and concise, going into a detailed response. Make sure your response is as close to the word or page count as possible. They are there for a reason.

Both the private and public sector procure goods, services and work through tendering. There’s no denying that there are on average, more opportunities for catering tenders in the public sector. The government often procures catering services through government catering contracts.

Government Catering Contracts

Through government tenders, there is a particular demand for catering contracts. Government tender buyers include local councils, the NHS, colleges and universities. Government catering contacts can be a great way to grow your business.

9 Things you can expect from government catering contracts

  1. Financial standing and insurance requirements

Your business’s economic and financial standing will be assessed. Minimum insurance requirements will need to be met in order to be in the running for a supplier. Three things will typically be assessed. These being your business’s:

  • Annual turnover – you usually need to attach your most recent audited and unaudited accounts.
  • Financial ratios – these may include acid-tests and quick ratios of your full financial accounts.
  • Insurance – you will need to attach your insurance documents to your tender response.
  1. Health and safety

You may be required to provide relevant copies of health and safety policies for government catering contracts. These should outline how you will ensure safe working practices and how risks will be mitigated. A buyer wants to be reassured that you demonstrate best practice for health and safety in the workplace.

  1. Food safety policies

Food hygiene and food safety policies will also be expected within the appendices of government catering contracts. These could include your business’s hygiene for food procedures and hygiene for food handlers. These should also cover the spillage of food or drink, broken dishes or glass and so on. This could include the H.A.C.C.P (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points).

  1. Environmental policy

A buyer for government catering contracts will have a high level of environmental policy requirements. They should consider their services, material and processes they use and their impact on the environment. A prospective supplier must be compliant with all relevant environmental waste management and hazardous products regulations. They may be required to minimise the usage of chemicals and materials that are damaging to the environment. Environmentally friendly products should be used where practicable.

  1. Site visits

Government catering contracts may offer site visits to prospective suppliers. This will be clearly stated in the tender documents if this is an option. It’s strongly advised that you partake in a site visit where possible. They can be beneficial to your tender response, gaining insight into the buyer. They may also result in you being able to give more accurate pricing for your services.

Site visits can help you see the intended work environment with your own eyes. This may allow you to pick up on details that otherwise may not be known. It also presents the opportunity to interact with the buyer in person. You will be able to see if you can forge a good business relationship with them.

  1. Quality standards

Such quality standards could vary depending on the government catering contract and the buyer. An example of quality standards that need to be met for the provision of catering services for schools could be:

  • Does your organisation comply with the requirements for School Food regulations?
  • Does your organisation comply with good procurement and government purchasing standards?
  • Are you trained in food hygiene and other relevant areas?
  1. MEAT

Government catering contracts will be awarded to the most economically advantageous tender. This is known as the MEAT and is the way in which public sector buyers award contacts. For the MEAT, a buyer is looking at more than just the price. They are looking at a number of factors individually and in combination. This is because the public sector is required to seek the most value for money from suppliers. They need to make sure the taxpayer’s money is being spent in the most economically advantageous way possible. A buyer could look at a number of factors such as:

  • Quality
  • Customer Service
  • Environmental Benefits
  • Accessibility
  • Innovation.
  1. Social value

There is a mandatory minimum weighting of 10% on social value within any public sector tender. This means that government catering contracts will always have a section on social value. When completing your tender response, you should take into consideration the social, economic and environmental aspects.

In relation to catering, there may be a focus on the use of environmentally friendly cleaning products. Other examples you could include in your social value response for government catering contracts are:

  • COVID-19 recovery
  • Paying the National Living Wage
  • Reduce waste and encourage recycling
  • Removal and disposal of waste in a sustainable way
  • Promote equality and diversity in employment
  • Employing workers from local communities. 
  1. CVs for key personnel

You may be expected to provide CVs for the key personnel who will work on the contract. They should their individual:

  • Title
  • Years of experience
  • Key responsibilities
  • Accreditations and qualifications
  • Additional training.

It’s also a nice touch to include a friendly, yet professional picture so buyers can put faces to names.

Need assistance?

If writing isn’t your strong suit, that’s ok. We can help you win government catering contracts or secure you a place on a catering DPS. Our sister company, Hudson Succeed, boasts an 87% success rate and over 60 years of collective bid writing experience. They are well versed at winning tenders and can give you an edge over your competitors. They offer four bid writing support packages.

Tender Ready

Our Tender Ready 4-week programme is designed for businesses who are completely new to tendering. Our Bid Writers work with you to make sure you have everything in place to tender successfully.

  • A 12-month subscription to Catering Tenders.
  • Access to Global Bid Directors and Senior Bidding Professionals.
  • An Organisation-wide Bid library, including 3 case studies, 5 CVs and 8 policies.
  • Additional flexible benefit options.

Tender Improvement

Have you been tendering for work, but aren’t seeing success from your efforts? Our Tender Improvement programme can help. During the course of the programme, a Bid Writer will assess your previous responses and supporting documents. They’ll give you feedback and guidance, working with you to improve for future submissions.

Tender Writing

If you’ve found the perfect catering tender, but don’t know where to start, Hudson Succeed can help. Send it over and one of our Bid Writers will take care of it all for you. They’ll even submit it on your behalf. They’ll provide you with a full Tender Writing breakdown and let you know what they need from you.

Tender Mentor

Tender Mentor can help if you’ve already written a bid response and you need someone to double-check for errors. Our Bid Writers will check it’s in line with the specification. They’ll also make sure it’s free of grammar and spelling mistakes before you submit it.

Where can I find catering tenders?

Searching for catering tenders can take a considerable amount of time out of your busy working day. There are thousands of sites posting new tendering opportunities every day. Searching for the right one can turn into a bit of a headache.

At Hudson, our Hospitality Tenders portal is designed to provide your catering business with the latest opportunities. We source a wide range of catering tenders across the country and further afield. Hudson wants to save you time, money and effort. Through our bespoke Hospitality Tenders portal, we will save you effort on a daily basis.

There is no need to use your valuable time searching for your ideal contracts. Our portal will do the hard work for you.

What makes Hospitality Tenders different?

Our catering clients look for opportunity tracking, that is easy, efficient and tailored to them. Look no further than Hospitality Tenders. This is exactly what Hudson offer. We take the hassle out of finding these opportunities, so you can focus on delivering work.

We don’t use algorithms or CPV codes to collect our tenders. Our team of Opportunity Trackers manually search through hundreds of catering tenders every day to bring you the latest contracts. These are displayed to you, easy to browse, in your bespoke Hospitality Tenders portal. Through our portal, you will find a full range of catering opportunities. These opportunities will appeal to businesses of all sizes, from Small-to-Medium-Enterprises (SMEs) to large organisations.

What can the Hospitality Tenders portal offer me?

Our Hospitality Tenders portal offers bespoke catering opportunities for everyone. We save you the time and effort to do what matters to you. Whether you’re a small start-up or you have been delivering catering services for decades – our contract opportunities are for you. These can range from thousands of pounds to hundreds of thousands, and beyond.

You will find both private and public sector contracts through our portal. The provision of catering services remains in continuous demand. Contract opportunities range from single-contract catering service to frameworks spanning several years. Buyers include:

  • Visitor centres
  • Colleges
  • Schools
  • Trusts and much more.

The private sector also offers lucrative new catering contracts on a daily basis. You might find private sector contracts for local festivals, events, sports clubs and private offices, both urban and rural.

We source catering contracts across the UK and are continually expanding our scope, to bring you the best opportunities.

A subscription to Hospitality Tenders can offer your business:

  • Access to all unique, private and public sector opportunities.
  • A dedicated Account Manager that can answer any questions you may have about DPS for catering or government catering contracts.
  • A daily email bulletin sent straight to your inbox when new catering tenders are uploaded that day.
  • Discounted support from Hudson Succeed, our bid writing division.
  • 20-minutes of free consultancy each month with our Bid Experts.

Below are previous catering tenders sourced on our portal:

Milton Keynes College – Tender for Vending Requirements

Milton Keynes College- South East- Budget: Undisclosed

GB-Enfield: Schools Services, Catering

Suffolks Primary School- London- Budget: £500,000

Catering Services at West Lancashire Investment Centre

West Lancashire Borough Council- North West- Budget: Undisclosed

Tender opportunity: Retail Trust Retirement Services

Retail Trust- London- Budget: Undisclosed

Provision of Ward Beverage Trolleys

City Hospitals Sunderland- North East- Budget: Undisclosed

GB-London: TBAP Multi Academy Trust

TBAP Multi Academy Trust- London- Budget: £500,000

School Meals Catering Contract Project

The Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames- London- Budget: £2,000,000

We also source opportunities for services including;

If you would like to see the catering contracts on the portal, please get in touch for a free demo.

Upgrade to our new time-saving tools

Upgrading to Discover Elite allows you to optimise your tendering opportunities even when you’re busy. Our two new packages can improve your competitor awareness and bidding success rate. Each package can help save you even more time when searching for the right catering tenders for your business.

The Ultimate Time Saver package offers your business:

  • A maximum of five tender breakdowns per month.
  • An annual subscription to a maximum of two Hudson Discover sector-specific portals. This option can help businesses that overlap two industries such as Hospitality and Facilities, for example.
  • Pre-market and award engagement notices monitored on your behalf.
  • Buyer portal management, including registration, password management, downloading documents and assessing viability based on your bid or no-bid
  • Weekly phone calls with your dedicated Account Manager to discuss viable hospitality tendering opportunities.

The Become a Pre-Bid Master package also includes:

  • All of the above.
  • Up to seven tender breakdowns per month.
  • A Bid Strategy delivered by a Senior Bid Manager with a minimum of 5 years of experience. It will also be managed by our Global Bid Director.

Contact us to find out how we can help your business grow.


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