Future of campus catering: preferred bidder announced
By: Ellie Evans
Last updated: Tuesday, 27 June 2023
Today (27 June) Chief Operating Officer Tim Westlake emailed all staff and students. You can read the full message below:
After comprehensive engagement with staff and students, and a robust procurement process, Chartwells have been confirmed as our preferred bidder for the new catering contract at the University of Sussex. Subject to being signed, the contract will come into effect on 15 August 2023.
Our ethical procurement process was developed in partnership with staff and students, and we believe it is sector leading. Our new process involved the following steps to assess the bids:
- First, we had to be satisfied that any potential supplier met minimum standards (including financial integrity and appropriate insurance and health and safety records) and statutory requirements.
- Submissions were then scrutinised to ensure they satisfied our strict criteria on the Real Living Wage, as well as net zero carbon and waste recycling and reduction targets, plus equality, diversity and inclusion policies and training for staff; any bidder that failed any of these minimum requirements was not progressed for further evaluation.
- Further evaluation focussed on the bidders’ technical proposals: how they would deliver the service, work in partnership with the University and, crucially, how they would provide excellent food and drinks for students and staff that offer choice, quality, and value for money.
- Finally, the commercial evaluation focussed on bidders’ costing of the service to allow us to evaluate bids to ensure that, as well as delivering high quality, ethical and sustainable services, they were also financially viable and represented value for money.
Through this procurement process, Chartwells demonstrated the strongest proposal overall, scoring the highest in the ethical procurement sections, and their technical and commercial proposals were compelling. We are confident that the revised contractual structure, being introduced from August, will allow the service to be run in new ways that meets the needs of our campus community now and into the future.
We are excited about the service that will be delivered under the new contract, with Chartwells bringing in new ideas and products to enhance and expand the campus food offer. The new partnership-based approach will also give the University greater control over how catering services are delivered, and it will enable greater innovation and investment in our catering infrastructure.
'An exciting, contemporary vision'
In December 2022, the University ran an extensive consultation with the campus community; this has ensured we understand what you need and want from our campus catering partner. In their submission, Chartwells demonstrated that they had listened closely to your feedback and proposed an exciting, contemporary vision for our catering services that is deeply rooted in considerations of sustainability, ethics, and value for money, and that significantly invests in a revamp of the University's eating spaces.
The changes to our catering offer will include:
- Overhauling EAT Central to create a food court-style layout that brings in small Brighton-based vendors, with covered seating and igloo-style pop-ups outside
- Refurbishing and reopening the Bridge Café as a social space to which food can be delivered, and working collaboratively with IDS and the students’ union outlets
- Improving and evolving the eight other University food outlets on campus
- Keeping the popular £2 cost of living meal which will be healthy, nutritious vegan or vegetarian fare, and introducing a Sussex Saver meal deal across cafés
- Making 50% of menus meat-free - and working to shift demand so at least 50% of the products bought are meat-free
- Offering Coffee for Causes in Arts Café, and selling Change Please coffee in Dhaba to support a charity that works with the homeless
- Working only with local suppliers in the ACCA café
- Switching to 100% reusable, recyclable or fibre-based compostable packaging by the end of 2023
- Ensuring that there are no air-freighted fruit and vegetables on menus.
Listening to our community
During the consultation, you told us very clearly what you want from campus catering, including:
- Making meat-free meals easier, with a plant-based outlet as part of the new provision
- A more diverse offering, including local and independent operators to reduce homogeneity and deliver a diverse, differentiated, and current offer that reflects the needs of our multi-national community
- Monitoring value by regularly reviewing pricing to ensure staff and students are getting value for money
- Providing better options in locations that lack services now
Our campus community was also clear that you care about the terms and conditions of those employed by our partner, a key element of which is paying the Real Living Wage.
The University has therefore committed to ensuring that the contract with the catering partner will be focused on delivering environmentally sustainable food, value for money for staff and students, and good employment conditions for catering staff. We are delighted that colleagues working on campus and employed by Chartwells will receive the Real Living Wage, and the same holidays and pension options as staff on similar contracts in the University. We believe these values-based commitments are sector leading.
Watch this space
In the coming weeks, we will share more information with you on how the new catering service will look and feel, as well as giving you a preview of what is happening behind the scenes to overhaul some of our eating spaces ready for the new academic year.