Faced with new challenges including hybrid working, inflation and supply chain disruption, some companies who manage their catering in-house, have decided to outsource catering.  This expert guide outlines some of the benefits of going to a catering specialist and the best ways to approach outsourcing catering.
Many companies manage their own catering effectively. However, there are lots of benefits to specialist outsourced catering.  You can read about the broader advantages of contract catering in our other expert guide.

Key benefits of outsourcing catering

Training and development

Caterers are experts at taking on new teams. We support all new team members as they move through the TUPE process. Team members feel that they have gained a new family with new opportunities, without losing their existing one. We’re able to up-skill teams in ways an in-house provider could never match. Our focused knowledge, training and buddy network means team members get to visit different sites for other kinds of hands-on experience. Our bespoke digital and classroom training are also great resources for team members. Although we continue to recruit for potential locations, the vast majority of the contracts we operate involves the TUPE of an existing team.

Innovation and inspiration

Contract caterers have a large network of chefs and access to research and development budgets. With links to the high street and Michelin starred chefs including Adam Byatt, we can create an environment where collaboration, brainstorming and inspiration take hold. An in-house operation could rarely match this.


Where challenges may arise, a contract caterer is able to assist with:

  • Negotiating good quality and value from sustainable sources.
  • Auditing the supply chain to ensure safety and legal compliance. We are a member of Sedex www.sedex.com which enables us to better manage our social and environmental performance, and protect people working in the supply chain.
  • Ensuring you are at the cutting edge of new products that could be introduced to your customers.
  • Adapting quickly to external factors that could impact product availability.

Agile Solutions to outsourcing catering

When faced with a need for change, we are familiar with different operating models and styles of catering. There may have been changes to existing operations with an increase or decrease in customers or a complete change of offers. We have tried and tested concepts that we can implement. And we have robust methods for swift and safe mobilisations. This enables clients to rest assured that the change over will be handled efficiently and reliably.

5 Steps to outsourcing catering 

1. Establish what you need

Always focus on your end result. Whether it is cost saving, quality improvement or removing risk and liability – it’s important to have a vision and objective. Many resources are available online, but one of the best resources is the catering network itself. Start an initial dialogue with a catering provider or consultant, this will be hugely beneficial. In these early stages you can often get some great pointers and advice to help better define your needs without incurring any costs.

2. Target the right partner

Once you have a clear idea of what you want, then you need to find the right partner for you. Different caterers have different strengths. Some are more innovative and agile, some have superior size, scope and infrastructure and others may be specialists in events, coffee or schools. Whatever you’re looking for, you will likely find a caterer that can provide what you need. Remember to consider how well they align to your culture and values. If you need help to find the right partner, then perhaps a tender process is the right option for you. Another option is to reach out to a catering consultant. The consultant will help you to define your needs and the framework that fits. They can help both define your vision, run the tender process and help you select the right partner. 

3. Agree a framework

We like to work with our clients in more flexible and creative ways. Complete outsourcing is not always the only way we can help. We often help clients with different needs. We’ve recently taken on a project where we have implanted a team into a hospital trust. We advise and support to help them make the transition from utilising us to taking the catering in-house. Some clients wish to continue managing their own services, but would like a bit of help. This can include; 

  • Setting up their compliance systems including food hygiene, health and safety
  • Training their teams
  • Helping to develop and innovate their offer.

Contract caterers deal with transition all the time. We are experts at managing and effecting change, whether that be an outsourced model or a more limited project or consultancy.

4. Measure what’s important

You shouldn’t have to get involved in every aspect of the work you enlist a partner to carry out. It is critical that you agree some clear objectives and outcomes that you can easily measure and monitor. This is so you both know what success looks like. For outsourcing benefits to be fully realised, you should not have to micro-manage the caterer. Trust them to do the job you are paying them for. Key performance indicators must be agreed to ensure key objectives are being met. These need to be reviewed every month.

5. Open, honest and regular communication

The most important aspect throughout the outsourcing catering process is clear and effective communication. This ensures the caterer can successfully understand and deliver the agreed vision. It’s crucial to have a defined communication and reporting framework in place. This allows the caterer to keep you informed of what you need to know. It allows you to easily see if the caterer is meeting your needs and taking full accountability for their results.

Contact Antony Prentice, Managing Director [email protected] to discuss ways we can support you to manage your catering more efficiently.

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