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The specifications establish in detail and at length the tendering entity’s needs, expectations and constraints. They provide tenderers with the information needed to draw up an offer.

The specifications may be structured as follows:

  • description of the services that are subject of the tender;
  • the entity’s expectations regarding the quality of the service;
  • other information needed for the contract catering tendering procedure.

A. Description of the services to be provided

1. The entity’s objectives as regards catering

The entity must first define its catering policy and adapt the organisation of the tendering procedure accordingly.

For instance, depending on the case, the entity may wish to:

  • Maintain its catering policy unchanged and renew the service, ensuring an identical service to the one that is in place at the time of the tendering procedure. In this case, detailed visits to the premises and restaurant for the tenderers will enable each candidate to fully appreciate the service that is required. As a result, the entity does not have to provide a detailed description of the premises and equipment in the specifications, and can concentrate on describing the food to be provided to the users.
  • Or, change the current service substantially. In this case the specifications must be more detailed and communicate the entity’s new objectives. This enables the tenderers to formulate offers that are in line with the objectives in question. A detailed visit of the premises and restaurant may also prove useful in determining the feasibility of the service required.

2. Type of contractual partnership

The contract catering company’s role may range from simple technical assistance, to delivery of prepared meals, to full management of the restaurant. Thus there are various types of partnerships and contracts that correspond to each type of engagement
(See Annex : Overview of contractual relationships proposed by CCCs).

The entity may opt for one or another type of partnership depending on its catering policy and on the state of the catering service at the time of the tendering procedure. (For instance, will the contract catering company be asked to invest in the premises and equipment?).

No matter the type of contract, a distinction must be made between:

  • “variable” costs: correspond to the raw material (the food), the volume and costs of which vary directly depending on the level of activity of the restaurant. These costs are charged “per meal” in most contracts;
  • “fixed” costs: 80% of these costs are labour costs and are generally invoiced each month. Typically, these costs do not evolve directly and in a linear way with the volume of activity, but in stages, with high and low periods of activity. 

It will, therefore, be necessary to provide for a system of invoicing in the contract that is adjustable according to restaurant usage levels. In this case the contract will comprise:

  • a contractual base calculated on the basis of the volume of activity observed for the catering service, for instance over the year preceding the tendering procedure;
  • specific clauses in the event of a change (upwards or downwards) in the level of activity of the restaurant. Under these clauses, the fixed costs invoiced every month may be adjusted in line with the level of activity (for high and low periods), while respecting the rights of employees in contract catering companies.

3. Defining the content of the service

The content of the catering service may change considerably depending on the functioning, constraints and wishes of the entity. It is recommended, therefore, that the respective responsibilities of the entity and the catering company be clearly defined (for instance, does the service include equipment maintenance?). This approach guarantees that offers are in line with the expectations of the entity and can be compared.

The following list covers almost all areas for which responsibility must be assumed by either the client entity or the contract catering company. This division of responsibility must be set down in the specifications.

Table 1: Division of responsibilities between the client entity and the service provider

4. Volume of activity

An in-depth quantitative analysis of the services to be provided should be undertaken so that it will be possible to detail a reliable volume of activity in the specifications.  This analysis should include: number of daily users, frequency of visits by day of the week, number of days of activity per year, and above all, the annual volume of meals served, per type of service.

In the case of a catering activity consisting of a “single product” service with a fixed rate charge, the entity may simply indicate the number of meals per year and the number of days of activity per year. However, in the case of a food service that may vary according to the type of user, a detailed volume of activity must be given per service:

Table 2: Volume of activity by service

Note: in the table above, examples of the various types of users could include:

  • pupils and teachers in the education sector;
  • medical staff and patients in the health sector.

The various types of services may cover, for example, the simultaneous supply of a self-service site, a cafeteria and a management-only restaurant, or may involve different types of meals: breakfast, snacks, lunch, dinner, hot meals, cold meals, etc...

This information is important as it will be used by the tendering entities to define the resources to be deployed, particularly human resources (number of employees and number of working hours), and to calculate the cost of the service.

5. Organisational matters

The specifications should also note any functional or organisational matters that the entity anticipates will impact contract fulfilment: Examples might include: site opening times on a daily, weekly and annual basis;  works projects at the site during the period of the contract that may have an impact; security issues such as access to the site, employee authorisations, etc.

6. Technical aspects

To ensure that the service and the technical resources are properly matched, the specifications should include a precise quantitative and qualitative inventory of the technical resources the entity will make available to the service provider for the performance of the catering service, namely:

  • the premises;
  • the facilities;
  • light operating equipment.

This information will allow tenderers to adapt their offer to the available technical resources. Where appropriate, the entity may ask the tenderers to indicate in their offer any mismatch between the resources being made available and the service required, and to propose practical solutions to solve the problems raised.

The technical inventory may be entrusted to a specialised consultancy, in particular when tenderers are asked to make investments or take care of the maintenance and/or repair of equipment. In this case, it is recommended that a distinction be made in the specifications between equipment that is not depreciated (which may have a trade-in value), and equipment that is already depreciated (which has no impact in the event of a transfer or sale).

As precise and professional as this technical inventory may be, it does not preclude a visit to the premises and a viewing of the equipment for the benefit of the tenderers.

The specifications should also outline the manner in which the technical resources will be made available. Depending on the case, this is done:

  • free of charge (for instance, the premises and heavy equipment);
  • for financial consideration: this may consist of
    • the purchase of the equipment by the contract catering company
    • investments to be made by the contract catering company.

In the case of purchases or a new investment by the contract catering company, the latter must specify clearly in its reply:

  • depreciation tables for the various types of investment by type (main works, secondary works, equipment, furniture, computer equipment, light operating equipment, etc.); 
  • procedures for transfer/trade-in of the investments in the event of contract termination, for whatever reason (compensation for termination, etc.).

B. Quality of service expectations

1. The food service

In the specifications the entity shall detail :

  • the nature of the food service to be provided (choice / diversity of daily supply, classification of prices, frequency of each type of food, etc.);
  • the general qualitative requirements (types of supplies: fresh products, for instance);
  • nutritional requirements (for instance, the exclusion or inclusion of certain products).

2. Organisation of human resources

Since contract catering is a labour-intensive activity, it is the quality of the management and the skills of the staff assigned to fulfilling the contract that essentially makes the every-day difference.

The entity should ensure that the organisation of human resources foreseen by the tenderers corresponds to the service required and is in keeping with the proposals made in their offers. For instance, a tenderer who states in his offer that he will opt for fresh supplies cannot claim at the same time that it is possible to work with a team of cooks and assistants that is very small or low-skilled.

Moreover, pursuant to Council Directive 2001/23/EC of 12 March 2001 on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to the safeguarding of employees’ rights in the event of transfers of undertakings, businesses or parts of undertakings or businesses (Official Journal No L 082 of 22/03/2001), legal provisions specific to each Member State govern the take-over of existing staff by the service provider who is awarded the contract. These provisions contribute to protecting the rights of the employees in the event of a change of subcontractor or service provider.

The tendering entities have, therefore, every interest in ensuring transparency and in providing tenderers with precise information concerning the restaurant team in place at the time of the tendering procedure. This information will contribute to continued employment and the protection of the employees’ rights, as well as the success of the future partnership between the entity and the contract catering company.

Table 3: Summary of the human resources management information to be provided to and required of tenderers
Information to be provided to tenderers Information required of tenderers
Level of qualifications, seniority, and the professional category of each member of the team in place. Evidence that the proposed staffing corresponds to the anticipated daily activity levels and the level of service required (diversity of daily supply, type of distribution, etc.). For example, if the entity wants to give priority to raw product supplies, this will require a larger number of workers who are more skilled than in the case of supplies involving pre-prepared products.
Professional experience of the manager or managers and kitchen staff proposed by the tenderers.
Remuneration. The procedures for taking over and integrating the staff (guarantees given to the workers already employed, supporting measures, etc.).
Existing training and development planning. The training/development plan to be proposed to the existing team (and to workers recruited to fulfil the contract).
Composition of staff envisaged for implementing the contract. The breakdown of the staff needed to implement the contract, particularly in the case of multi-service contracts (for instance catering plus industrial cleaning), distinguishing between the various classes of workers depending on the collective agreement in force in each sector.

3. Quality management

The entity must ask the tenderers to describe the resources they intend to deploy to comply with quality-related commitments, namely:

  • control of food supplies, in particular the traceability and identification of the origin of the foodstuffs; 
  • the processes and methods for monitoring and evaluating quality (quality of the food, quality of the service, reception, information, etc.);
  • compliance with both European (REGULATION (EC) No 852/2004 of the EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 29 April 2004 on the hygiene of foodstuffs, Official Journal of the European Union,  L 139 of 30 April 2004) and national regulations on food hygiene and safety: the tenderers must be asked to provide evidence of their ability to comply with legal provisions in this area and their perfect knowledge of procedures based on HACCP principles (analysis of risks and control over critical points) relating to, among others:
    • the premises and equipment, including maintenance,
    • the staff and the training and development plan,
    • waste management,
    • the transformation and distribution of foodstuffs,
    • the documentation system, the HACCP plan and self-checks,
    • epidemiological investigations in the case of food poisoning,
    • the information made available to the entity.

C. Other information needed for the tendering procedure in contract catering

1. Social responsibility requirements

The authorities should state in the specifications whether they have special requirements regarding corporate social responsibility or sustainable development. This could include, for instance, the recruitment of socially underprivileged or disabled persons, equal opportunities for men and women, combating racism and xenophobia, environmental protection, etc.

2. Safety requirements

Depending on the type of contract, and the engagement level of the contract catering company, the entity must define restaurant and premises safety requirements where the service is to be provided:

  • risk prevention (introduction of a risk prevention plan, training of a safety team, compliance by the team with the prevention plan, etc.); 
  • protection of employees and users: both collective and individual protection; 
  • emergency intervention procedures.

3. Financial constraints

The choice of the economically most advantageous offer has as its objective the selection of the offer with the best ratio between the quality of the service proposed and the price.

To assess the quality/price ratio of each offer, the price related information of the service (the financial offer) provided by the tenderers must be perfectly transparent in order to guarantee the comparability of offers.

The entity must insist that tenderers specify in their financial offer the VAT rates that will be applied to each service, in particular where several VAT rates apply.

Strict compliance with tax legislation is required by tenderers, who must indicate whether prices are taxes included or excluded and specify, when calculating prices with taxes included, the type of tax and the rate applied to each service as well as the basis for calculation.

4. Monitoring contractual commitments

Once the contract has been awarded, the entity will, with the successful tenderer, establish a system to monitor and check the contractual commitments of each party.

The specifications should include a description of the monitoring system envisaged by the authorities (or, at a minimum, its main characteristics: type and frequency of checks, etc.). This monitoring should focus on, for example, the number of persons using the restaurant, the main items consumed, operational and staff activity, quality of the service, the state of the premises and equipment, energy consumption and administration.

D. Summary

Table 4: Structure of the specifications for contract catering
1 –Description of the provision of services
A – Entity’s catering objectives
B - Type of contractual partnership
C - Definition of the service
D - Volume of activity
E - Organisational constraints
F - Technical aspects
2 - Entity’s expectations
A - The food service
B – Organisation of human resources
C - Quality management
3 – Other information needed for the tendering procedure
A – Social responsibility requirements
B - Safety requirements
C - Financial constraints
D - Monitoring contractual commitments

Content of this guide

With the financial support of the EU
Grant Agreement
VS/2004/0655 SI2.39852