The awarding of pubic sector catering contracts such as school dinners must be improved, the chairman of the British Hospitality Association's (BHA) Food and Service Management Forum has said.
Speaking ahead of the launch of the Food and Service Management Survey 2008 today (4 March) Hopper, who is corporate affairs director at Sodexo, said too many tender documents were being drawn up by procurement officers without any catering input.
Hooper said many contracts were too detailed and inflexible as a result, taking too long to put into play and rarely allowing caterers to suggest new or alternative ways of providing a service.
"Catering consultants who are employed by local and health authorities to advise provide a valuable service in some but not all cases but the ultimate objective in the main is to find the lowest tender, almost irrespective of value."
Despite a series of reports last year showing significant decline in the numbers of school dinners consumed each day in the state sector, the report found there had been a 20% increase year-in-year in the number of schools contracting out their catering to private contracts with a 20% increase to record 5,313 sites.
However Hooper warned that the Government's push to see public sector bodies adopt local supplies from local suppliers was at present a complication due to the failure by ministers to define just what "local" constitutes.
The contract catering industry is valued at close to £4b and serves almost 1.6 billion meals a year from more than 17,600 outlets. Business and industry remains the largest sector by type making up almost half of the market (47.9%) with 8,436 sites. State schools and further education colleges and universities represent the largest slice of public service catering at 5,836 sites and 33.2% of the total contract catering market.
The FSM report, sponsored by Nestlé Professional, identifies rising food costs and staff wages as key concerns.
By Chris Druce
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