The British Hospitality Association (BHA) chief executive declared that “our nation marches on its stomach,” highlighting the food orientated culture in Britain. The value of food is emphasized by the fact that the public sector prepares 6.6 million meals everyday and that the government spends over £1 billion each year on catering. Indeed, from 2010-2011 the government‘s food bill was a total of £2.1 billion. This ten-digit figure is spent on providing meals in schools, hospitals, the armed forces, prisons and other public sector organizations.

The CBI Open Access report argues that the government could save 10% on catering within the NHS and in government-run schools through outsourcing facilities management. This is particularly relevant with the current Conservative policy of privatisation and reduction of national debt; however some government policies don’t take advantage of cost effective methods. It is suggested that the government could save 5% per school dinner through outsourcing to private companies. Moreover, 71% of facilities management is operated by the NHS; however the CBI report has argued that 10% savings could be made if FM is outsourced.

The BHA report on outsourcing has highlighted the barriers that many companies face when liaising with the public sector. Experts call for an alteration in government attitude when it comes to private companies in order to benefit smaller organisations as well as provide government savings.

Chrispy Roll
The first step that the BHA recommends is the removal of pre-qualification questionnaires, a hurdle at which many small and medium sized companies stumble at. Providing a level playing field for all supplying companies would allow previously unrecognised food wholesaler to showcase their talents in catering. Secondly, the BHA calls for an improvement in the commissioning process, meaning services are provided strategically and skill levels are increased. The report also recommends a clear vision when it comes to FM in order to provide more effective management and a strategic approach to delivering services. Finally, the BHA asks the government to recognise the value of good food in improving the standard of life across all public sectors.

In order to achieve these goals, the BHA recommends outsourcing to private food suppliers. This is due to the commercial expertise of private companies, who are results-orientated and take a focused approach to catering. Consequently, this means that performance can be monitored effectively. Moreover, private companies have a wealth of world class expertise from which the government could take advantage. The BHA research also argues that contracted-out caterers drive a culture of innovation and growth.

Ultimately, these reports show that the government could save significantly and maintain or improve food standards if the current outsourcing barriers are altered.

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Rizwan Ahmad

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