Benefits of taking the full review of catering procurement

A case study from Sedbergh School

Sedbergh School is a leading co-educational full boarding school located between the picturesque Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District.

Deputy bursar Toby Lehmann has seen significant benefits from undertaking a full review of their catering procurement. Lehmann explains: “Catering has always been a large aspect of the role, given that we produce 17,849 meals every week.

“Although we had help from a procurement company in sourcing our food, we struggled to control the order process and, as a result, the weekly spend. The bottom line was that we didn’t have control and had to try to explain budget variance to the COO each month. Something needed to change.”

Professional tendering

Lehmann continues: “We brought in an independent consultant to undertake a benchmarking exercise. We learned pretty quickly that we were spending more than we needed to, and the consultant initiated an exercise to review the services of procurement firms that could help us.”

Having undertaken desk-based research, it came down to the incumbent firm and Pelican Procurement.

“There were three key aspects we were really evaluating,” says Lehmann. “Price is, of course, key, however, the IT systems that support the service as well as people are also crucial. It was clear from the start that Pelican are head and shoulders above what else is out there.

“Compared to the competition, the Pelican Pi system is in a different category and while there were personal loyalties to the incumbent, we knew there was no competition; Pelican stood out.”

Categories including dry goods, frozen, ambient, non-foods, chemicals, meat and poultry, fruit and vegetables, dairy and seafoods all went out to tender. 

Lehmann says: “It was important for us to continue to support the town and wider community wherever possible. Pelican factored this into the tender process and I’m delighted that we have been able to continue working with our local suppliers.”

Sedburgh School

Delivering control and transparency through IT

Aside from the tendering, a major element of change has been the adoption of Pelican’s procurement system – Pi.

Lehmann explains: “Our major issue before was that we had inadequate visibility of our spend. It would take us two or three weeks of manual accounting after the month-end to work out what had been spent.

“When we first started using Pi, we had a significant overspend carried over from the previous term. By working far more closely with the chefs, in the very first month of using Pi, we were under budget – and the next month, and the next! By the end of the summer, we had transformed the catering so that we were operating within budget and had improved the quality of dining in the school.

“Now, with Pi everything is visible in real-time. I can look at any time to see what our daily, weekly or monthly spend is looking at across all sites. I can see what individual chefs are ordering and corrections can be made there and then. I can work out costs per pupil and this level of precision enables us to better plan our menus.

By the end of the summer, we had transformed the catering so that we were operating within budget and had improved the quality of dining

“The Pelican team have been really supportive throughout – what is apparent is Pelican ‘gets’ catering. They just understand it from the inside-out.

“When I consider the three original goals – to address our pricing, improve transparency through IT and work with experts who understand catering and our needs – this has all been achieved. When I meet the COO each month it’s now a pleasure to discuss the catering!”


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