Sheffield is the latest council to get a dire response from bidders for its school meals contract.
Only Compass Group division Scolarest tabled a formal bid for the five-year deal, which covers 139 schools.
However, the sole bid was reportedly rejected by the council because it failed to meet the contractual criteria. The two parties said they were still in discussions but refused to confirm that Scolarest's bid had been rebuffed.
Sodexho and Initial Catering Services also looked at the deal but decided it wasn't financially viable.
Initial managing director Simon James said: "I took the bid documents out of the envelope, looked at them and put them straight back in. Councils need to have a more realistic approach, and share the commercial risk more fairly," he said.
The case follows similar scenarios in Bracknell Forest, Berkshire, which received no bids, and in Kent, where 70 contracts were cherry-picked from the total of 405.
Since the poor response in Kent, Initial, Sodexho and Scolarest have met the council to find a way forward. After compromising on some targets, only Initial has so far agreed to bid for the remaining 335 schools.