Why such a Guide?

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The social partners in the Contract Catering sector, FERCO (European Federation of Contract Catering Organisations) and EFFAT (European Federation of Food, Agriculture and Tourism Trade Unions) note that a growing number of public bodies, or authorities, and private enterprises, are subcontracting their catering services to firms specialised in such services.

To choose the service provider, these entities resort to tendering procedures at local, regional, national and even European level, depending on the size of the contract. At the moment, most such catering contracts are awarded to the company that submits the lowest bid. While fully aware of the budget constraints facing public and private operators, EFFAT and FERCO consider that the policy of awarding contracts to the lowest cost tenderer is not in the interests of the parties concerned.

In fact, choosing service providers on the basis of price generates increased competition between contract catering companies and induces them to streamline their costs as much as possible. This streamlining is sometimes to the detriment of the quality of the meals and services provided, which may imperil food safety. It can also have an adverse effect on the jobs and working conditions of those in the sector and the viability of contract catering companies more generally.

This preference for the lowest price can also have a negative impact on the image of the client entity, which can appear to be concerned only about the price and not about the quality of the meals.

FERCO and EFFAT consider that the priority given to price is also due to difficulties encountered by the entities in communicating their qualitative needs when drawing up invitations to tender, and to the absence of instruments for weighting, assessing and comparing offers, mindful not only of price but also of quality.

Given this, EFFAT and FERCO have decided, in the interests of the client entities and of their users, and also of the companies in the contract catering sector, to propose a method for awarding catering contracts that accounts for both quality and price.

To facilitate the practical implementation of this procedure, EFFAT and FERCO have drawn up a “guide to the economically most advantageous offer that makes available the tools needed to award a contract on the basis of the best quality/price ratio and hence to promote in Europe the principle of the “economically most advantageous offer” which, it should be pointed out, is supported by European legislation and the case law of the European Court of Justice.

“European users” have become more demanding and their expectations more complex. For instance, there is:

  • an overall demand for quality;
  • an expectation of a wide choice of food that is varied regularly;
  • a need for comfort and an aesthetically pleasing setting (acoustics, decoration, furniture, etc.);
  • a search for attractive, varied methods of distribution;
  • a focus on nutrition;
  • a high expectation in terms of the hygiene and safety of foodstuffs;
  • a demand for information regarding the meals served.

At the same time, laws (on food hygiene and safety, the environment, working conditions and training, safety of users, etc.) are increasingly restrictive and are allocating further responsibilities to both the contract catering companies and the client entities.

Faced with this new environment, a growing number of organisations, both public and private, are subcontracting their catering services to specialised companies. They are then faced with the challenges of managing the tendering process. Tendering authorities must choose the best solution that takes into account their needs and constraints, in particular financial constraints, while complying with professional practices and the many regulatory provisions inherent to catering.

Opting for the economically most advantageous offer allows all of these challenges to be met and enables the process of subcontracting to be managed as efficiently as possible.

In the view of FERCO and EFFAT, the choice, by both public and private bodies, of the economically most advantageous offer will provide real added-value and have positive implications for all parties involved:

  • more transparent processes for awarding contracts;
  • a better analysis of the needs of the purchasing entities;
  • optimisation of the resources invested in the functioning of the catering service;
  • a response that is more in line with the expectations of the entities and of their users;
  • higher levels of quality, hygiene and food safety;
  • guarantees in terms of jobs, working conditions and training for those working in the contract catering sector.

Content of this guide

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