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The Ultimate Guide to Winning Catering Tenders

Written by Thornton And Lowe


Dec 27, 2022

If you own or manage a catering company, you're undoubtedly looking for new methods to expand your clientele and market share. Winning a catering contract with the government is one strategy to expand your company.

Traditionally, the price was the primary factor in determining how catering services were offered in public sector organisations such as hospitals, colleges, and others. This created the perception that institutional cuisine is inexpensive, bland, and unappetizing.

However, campaigns like Feed Me Better - famous for its anti-Turkey Twizzlers stance - have successfully placed a spotlight on healthy school meals. The Child Obesity Plan also recognised that public sector catering should offer healthier alternatives and inspire people to make healthy and nutritious decisions.

Across the wider public sector, Procurement Teams’ focus has moved from cost-cutting exercises to investment in nutritious, delicious meals and local produce. Since many institutions frequently outsource this function, there is a tonne of catering tenders available.

To identify relevant tender opportunities, suitable to your needs, you can find UK government sector tenders posted on Contracts Finder and Find a Tender. As well as our free software, which includes keyword search, email alerts and an easy way to monitor competitor contracts – Tender Pipeline.

There are a few things you can do to increase your chances of winning Catering Tenders:

1. Make sure you're registered with key buyer portals, such as Procontract. You can do this by monitoring tenders and assessing which website they then direct you to.

2. When bidding on a contract, including all the necessary information the government requires, such as the basics like your company details, proof of insurance, policies and procedures and references.

3. Be competitive with your pricing. The government is always looking for the best value for its money, so be sure to offer a fair price for your services.

4. Demonstrate your experience and expertise in catering. Make sure to highlight any relevant experience you have in your proposal.

5. Offer a detailed and professional proposal. Your proposal should be well-written and include all the information the government requires.

Now, let us talk a little more in detail about more things that can get you a government contract.

General Food Hygiene and Quality Control

Customers want to be reassured that your company is taking all the necessary precautions to ensure food safety. This includes ensuring that:

  • All ingredients are fresh and of the highest quality
  • All food is prepared in a clean and sanitary environment
  • All employees handling food are adequately trained and knowledgeable about food safety procedures

Can you provide proof of employee development and credentials in food safety? Getting these responses ready as early as possible is wise since all of these concerns will likely be asked for in the catering contract. This way, you can avoid any potential misunderstandings or disagreements that could occur later on.

Examine the Tenders Format

Bid writers are responsible for creating proposals to pitch for contracts, offer services, or seek project financing. For any firm participating in official tenders or contract possibilities, bid writing is a crucial component of the marketing and sales role. The bid writing job is a challenging task. It is a big responsibility and requires a professional team to do the job correctly. Even though there may be a large number of documents, you must know precisely what the customer is seeking and whether you can satisfy all of their needs.

Verify the Structure of the Tender

Are the catering supplies and services gathered under one category or divided into many lots? If either, be confident you can fulfil all of the demands. This is a chance to show the customer how you'll save them money by achieving exceptional quantity efficiencies. How much money will they save if they give you the entire contract? Can you provide any rewards with extra value? Similarly, how can your firm provide a greater quality than a more effective catering service that can meet all needs if you compete for a single lot?

Strength of the Supply Chain and Services

You must assure customers that food production will not be disrupted, despite external, global and local events. Therefore, you must show that you have robust contingency measures in place, throughout your supply chain, to mitigate and control continuity risks such as supply shortages, staffing absences and logistics challenges. Across most bids, you must demonstrate your stringent supplier selection, management and monitoring processes. Consider how to evidence that you are successful in minimising risks and have successfully maintained continuity for your current customers.

Things You Should NOT Do:

These are some of the things which you should not do. Avoid making these mistakes which people have usually made, so we were hoping you could learn from their mistakes.

Not Responding to the Query:

This is a very important step that is often overlooked. Make sure you understand the question and what is being asked of you before beginning to draft your answer. The question should be properly read several times. Underline key phrases in the questions. Structure a compliant response by reflecting the language used in the question. Create a logical order outline for your answer that addresses every part of the topic before you begin writing.

Lack of Proof:

Make sure to provide plenty of detail and evidence to back up your assertions, strategies, and recommendations in a tender. Your accomplishments and ability to deliver on your promises will be closely scrutinised by the assessor, so be prepared to provide plenty of supporting information. Without a well-supported body of facts, your comments may be seen as flimsy and unreliable.

Irrelevant Data:

Unfortunately, you cannot receive points for material and content that does not directly address the topic. Make sure that your response is direct and to the point. Any material that is included should be there for a reason and should be something that will earn you a mark from the evaluator. Do not include any unnecessary information, and make sure that your response is clear and concise

Catering Framework:

A framework is an approved suppliers list. Many public sector bodies want to be able to procure catering services quickly and compliantly, knowing they are working with a good group of bidders. Buying groups or the public sector themselves then publish a tender and award the best suppliers onto the list/ the framework. When there is then a specific need – e.g. a specific school requires a catering service. Only those approved suppliers on the framework are invited to put forward a more specific proposal of how they will respond to the school's specific requirements and the associated price for this service.

By catering companies getting onto these frameworks, they will get opportunities not open to others. Only those approved suppliers on the framework will be asked to bid for the contract, which is often called a call-off (a call-off from the framework) or mini competition.

Below we have highlighted several key UK public sector catering frameworks.

List of UK's Major Public Sector Catering Framework:

The Crescent Purchasing Consortium (CPC):

The Crescent Purchasing Consortium (CPC) Catering Framework is a purchasing agreement that provides a range of pre-vetted, quality-assured catering suppliers. The agreement covers a wide range of services, from catering for staff and visitors to event catering and hospitality. The framework provides a broad range of catering and hospitality services and products, from equipment to ingredients, from small independent suppliers to major national brands. The agreement has been developed in partnership with local authorities, public sector and third sector organisations, to ensure that it meets the needs of customers.

It is available to all public sector organisations, including schools and universities, NHS, central government, local authorities, emergency services and housing associations. CPC Catering Framework is designed to provide customers with an easy, cost-effective and compliant way to purchase catering services and products. Crescent Purchasing Consortium (CPC)’s role and approach is covered in the CPC blog so click here and get all the necessary information


This UK-wide framework enables Education, Social Care and broader public sector buyers to outsource their catering needs. We know Schools, Colleges, Universities and Councils regularly use ESPO frameworks. Recently tendered it runs till August 2024 and has nearly 50 suppliers. You can find out all the information on the ESPO blog that we've written

The Crown Commercial Service (CCS) Food and Drink

The Crown Commercial Service (CCS) was established in April 2014 to improve government procurement and commercial relationships with suppliers. The CCS provides commercial services to the public sector, including central government, local government, health, education, devolved administrations, and not-for-profit organisations.

The CCS Catering Framework is a national framework agreement for the supply of catering services, equipment, and related products to public sector organisations. It covers a wide range of catering services and equipment, including catering for meetings, conferences, and events; food service; cold food production; and kitchen design. The framework is designed to make it easier for public sector organisations to find and access the catering services they need. It also helps ensure they get value for money, with all suppliers providing services at competitive prices, and with the added assurance of quality and safety. Click here to find out more about our profile on catering frameworks.

Education Buying Framework:

It is free to use and simple to access the Education Buying Group PSBO Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS) for Catering, which was created by schools for schools. This DPS eliminates the requirement for you to conduct a complete tender process by giving you the ability to compete for academic institutions through a simple, assisted Further Competition approach that is completely compliant with the Public Contract Regulations of 2015.

As a DPS this means it is open to new suppliers! You do not have to wait until the framework is released. We fully explain why a DPS agreement is useful here.

All institutions of higher learning can access their catering DPS. You can find more information by clicking here.

Expert Bid Writing for Catering Tenders

Thornton & Lowe have been successful on all the frameworks noted above for Catering services. Providing our clients with bid writing services to secure long-term and consistent contracts in Catering.

Why not take a look at our broader facilities management page for more top tips when bidding for catering contracts or see our case study to demonstrate what we have achieved for one of our Catering clients.

Locating catering frameworks and tenders may be difficult, therefore at Thornton & Lowe, we offer software that is completely free to use for tender monitoring, setting up email notifications for tenders, keeping an eye on your competition and writing tenders.

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