3: Is the price right?
Budgets are tight
Tight government budgets have meant that schools, prisons and hospitals in particular are looking for a good deal. Wholesalers that can offer competitive and consistent pricing are in a good position to capitalise. HM Prison Birmingham’s kitchen manager Chris Marlby says: “We are in such a cost-driven environment so it’s often down to the products that offer the best value for money.”
But a drop in price doesn’t mean compromising on quality and the pressure is on for wholesalers to provide the best possible credentials at the most competitive price. “Eighty per cent of our fruit and veg is fresh and I’m looking for the best value for money – it doesn’t necessarily mean the cheapest, just the best quality for the price,” says James Varghese.
4: Green is good
Fresh, provenance and animal welfare
As a nation, we are becoming increasingly concerned about what we are eating and where it has come from. This is further enforced by changing regulations that ensure that our food has minimal impact on the environment. “We only have three deliveries a week, to cut down on our carbon footprint, and all our chip fat goes back to our supplier to use as biodiesel,” says Varghese.
Julia Dowsett of London Catering Schools Group says: “Ninety per cent of our food is freshly cooked on-site – all our meat is locally sourced and fresh. We are fully dedicated to supporting animal welfare standards, and work with other certifications including Red Tractor, Freedom Food and Organic.”
For school catering specialist Absolutely Catering, environmental credentials are critical. “They are heavily considered when we decide which supplier to use, but there is also increasing demand for the Food for Life Catering Mark accreditation.”
The mark is an indication that food providers are taking steps to use fresh ingredients and comply with national nutrition standards. It has been cited by NHS England as a way to improve hospital food and by the Department for Education as a national framework to support caterers to increase uptake of quality school meals.
5: Service is still king
Don’t devalue good rapport
Many schools, hospitals and universities make their decisions about ‘where to buy’ using a procurement consultant, or decisions are made further up the pecking order at head office. But service is still critical and unhappy customers will feed back to head office.
Sue Haynes at Stokefield Residential Care Home says: “If an order turns up with something missing or is late then the wholesaler needs to be able to communicate with us and rectify it. If they can’t, then they risk losing us as a customer. A good rapport between us and the wholesaler is essential – communication as well as cost-effectiveness is the best way to attract customers.”
James Varghese agrees. “I have stopped using suppliers in the past because they no longer come to see me,” he says.