How to choose a catering firm

Catering Firm Selection Criteria

The catering firm should manage the canteen as a partnership with the school - the school should be able to influence policy issues, and the firm should manage operational issues in a way that removes the canteen as a critical issue for school management.

Fees paid to the school should be competitive but sustainable. If fees are too high and firms are not able to sustain the quoted cost (and there are many examples of this occurring), there could be adverse consequences for the school.

  • The firm should have a profit share option.
  • Prices in the canteen should be competitive with the general market.
  • The firm should not also be a food manufacturer as this creates conflicting priorities and provides opportunities for the firm to mask its true level of profitability.
  • The quality of food served should be sufficient to deliver high student and parent satisfaction, with an ability to include a range of healthy food options in the canteen.
  • The firm should purchase from suppliers that meet required standards, and that have strong brands that will drive the best turnover and profitability for the canteen.
  • Service to students should be of a high level.
  • The firm should have good management systems to control costs and quality.
  • All government regulations, employment standards, insurances and tax requirements must be observed.
  • The firm should be of sufficient size to ensure it can arrange back-up in the event of unforeseen staff issues.
  • Where required the school should be able to speak to the principals of the firm.
  • The firm should have a history of creditworthiness and not be one that has closed down and re-started under another name to avoid creditors.
  • The firm should have extensive experience in successfully managing school canteens.
  • The firm should be a specialist in school canteen management. Generalist canteen catering firms tend to use systems that are more appropriate in their core market and frequently do not adapt well to school canteen management.
  • The firm should have experience in canteen design.
  • The firm should be willing and able to provide financial statements on the profitability of the canteen on a regular basis and an audited statement at the end of each financial year.