How can public sector caterers mitigate food price increases?

12th September 2022

While caterers can’t control headline prices, there are measures they can put in place to alleviate cost impacts.

With food price rises continuing to squeeze contract caterers, Andrew Pond, Business Development Director for Civica Catering Management (formerly Saffron), looks at the benefits of using technology to help drive cost and time efficiencies across complex public sector catering operations. 

There’s no doubt this is a challenging time to be buying food, whichever sector you operate in. Inflation in the foodservice sector has reached 11.5% according to the latest CGA by NielsenIQ Prestige Foodservice Price Index, representing a fifth consecutive month of double digit percentage inflation. For fruit dairy and oils & fats, inflation is higher than 20%.

All catering businesses are at the mercy of current food and energy price increases and while they can’t control the headline prices, they can put in place measures to help mitigate those cost impacts on their business.

1. By enabling tighter control of what is being purchased to deliver the menu.

It’s important to ensure that everybody within the organisation is buying products from approved suppliers, where volumes and discounts have been negotiated. Automating and simplifying the process can save up to 70% of the associated costs of a paper-based system.

With Civica’s Purchase to Pay (P2P) module, caterers can manage stock levels and recipe costings more easily, automatically raise and place purchase orders and trade with any supplier, whatever their size – all through one, simple to use platform.

2. By controlling the food cost percentage of delivering the catering service.

For effective menu control and management caterers need accurate data and insight, to ensure they’re selling the right dishes at the right price and ordering the correct amount of ingredients to minimise food waste.

Civica Catering Management manages this process and highlights variances, enabling organisations to act upon increases and impacts quickly. Users can capture real time data from their EPOS and pre-ordering systems, to evaluate dish performance and make informed decisions. This interoperability also ensures the correct selling price is passed to the customer immediately and margin managed effectively.

Menu management can mean making substitutions and Civica Catering Management makes it easier to switch to cheaper or more readily available options, or switch from scarce products if they become more expensive. P2P manages this process and highlights variances, enabling organisations to act upon increases and impacts in a timely manner.

However, while keeping an eye on profitability, it’s important to understand the risk substitutions can pose to customers and also to compliance with FIR and Natasha’s Law. Civica Catering Management instantly shows the impact that changes have on cost, allergens, nutrition and carbon footprint – to the caterer and also to customers via our Wellbeing portal or labelling options.

3. By optimising the sales/cost mix across the operation

Keeping tight control of profitability isn’t just about menu management though. it’s about the overall sales/cost mix and this requires accurate and timely data. Sales data from the EPOS, pre-order or cashless system supports managing procurement, staffing levels, menu performance and food wastage too. Which due to the dynamic nature of services now, could be running high.

Civica Catering Management provides enhanced visibility, governance and control to drive efficiencies. In the current climate, it has never been more important to take advantage of those benefits.

Find out how we could help you control costs to combat price increases in your catering operation.

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Further reading

Nigel Craine

Head of Schools & Residential Care Catering,

Lancashire County Council

Saffron gives us the consistency we need around food production, cost allowances, ingredients and allergens, while the real-time reporting functionality gives us greater visibility of uptake.