• Self-managed vs outsourced catering: Which is right for your school?

    960 640 Guest Post

    By ACE Advice

    There are moments in any organisation’s life when additional resources, such as catering, are needed to successfully manage growth or performance. These resources underpin your organisational stability. But first, you must decide who’s going to deliver them: extra personnel, or a third party.

    The scale of your organisation, and its plans for growth, should be key considerations when selecting a catering service. As should the strength of your existing internal infrastructure, and its ability to manage a contractor, or a directly employed team.

    Both options come with advantages and disadvantages. Below, we’ve outlined each in detail, helping you to make a weighted decision on the best route forward for your organisation.


    Self-managed catering is undoubtedly the most popular choice for schools and academies. Up to 70% of the sector is either managed by a Local Authority Caterer under a Service Level Agreement, or directly managed by individual schools or trusts.

    A catering service’s success can only be viewed on a case-by-case basis, and by understanding any organisational pressures. Whilst self-managed services may be more aligned to the school’s or trust’s vision, the team’s capability is vital to delivering that vision. To determine this, the catering manager will need a line manager – usually the school business manager – whose workload and expertise should also be considered.

    As a MAT grows, standards and branding become increasingly important, bringing the need for uniformity across the schools. This is also true for the catering services within the trust, which in turn brings additional management inputs.

    At ACE Advice, we offer a full suite of support materials that can assist the self-managed team in areas outside the local management’s skill set, ensuring a safe, compliant catering service. Our specialists can guide the procurement decisions taken in the kitchen, such as monitoring ingredient prices, provenance and supply chain, and agreeing contract costs for menu ingredients, to boost your team’s productivity.


    The remaining 30% of UK schools outsource their catering provision, usually in a bid to remove the hassle and release the organisation from this high-intensity responsibility.

    Appointing a contractor has benefits, but it does mean the loss of direct control over the service. What’s more, it isn’t a straightforward procedure, and ultimately, a contract caterer’s efficiency and effectiveness rests with the school business manager. If they’re continuously challenged and placed under pressure, they can achieve considerable improvements. If they’re left alone, they may underperform to the school’s expectations.

    To extract full value from the chosen supplier, schools often need management support from independent professionals, who have a deeper understanding of contractor behaviour and their commercial drivers.

    That’s where ACE Advice comes in. With our valuable expertise, we can ensure you remain compliant throughout the procurement process and assist with monitoring and overseeing the entire contract.

    Catering support from ACE Advice

    Finding the best solution for your organisation isn’t easy – it requires careful and strategic thinking and analysis. In the end, it may come down to a trade-off between financial demands, day-to-day control, and the workload of your leadership team.

    If you need help deciding which option is right for your organisation, our team of expert consultants is here to support you. At ACE Advice, we work with schools and trusts to determine the risks and rewards of a directly managed, or an outsourced catering service.

    Reach out to us today on 07833 265675, or visit our website to find out more.


    Guest Post

    All stories by: Guest Post

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published.