Now more than ever, is it time to benefit from
in-house catering?

in house catering staff preparing food


Hayden Hibbert, Client Relations Director at allmanhall, takes a look. Hayden was previously head of catering at a group of international schools and applies his extensive practical, handson experience to provide valuable insight and expert perspective

The late Paul Prudhomme observed, “You don’t need a silver fork to eat good food”. This may be true, but it is highly likely that you do need a good catering team to produce good food for your school! Then comes the big question… should you outsource catering or is in-house the better option?

Key reasons to consider in-house catering

Key reasons for considering in-house are control and cost. In this climate of unprecedented financial pressures, schools need to be agile, lean and to deliver the best food offer they can, ensuring they are receiving value for money – a challenge when these significant costs are nebulous.

The reasons for appointing a contractor are varied, such as outsourcing the administrative burden of managing the HR function for the team or if their current in-house food offer is not delivering the standard of quality required.

Contractors provide a multi-faceted head office support function and investment in refurbished facilities may be offered by them to schools, as an incentive. However, the repayments will, most likely, favour the contractor. What seems an easy, low risk option may come at a significant cost. To evidence this, allmanhall consistently achieve cost savings of up to 30% when benchmarking against outsourced catering food costs.

Contractors employ a variety of earning models. A common model is ‘Cost Plus’, based on an estimated budget – the cost of catering, plus a management fee. If this budget is exceeded the school pays more; if savings are made, these should be passed on to the school. The caterer charges the management fee, typically between 3% and 5% of the total cost of catering: food + labour + sundries, plus VAT.

Whilst increased competition pressure has seen a steady reduction in these substantial management fees, the majority of the contractor’s earnings are derived from food purchasing paid for by the school. High levels of opaque rebates are incorporated by the contractor into the food prices on the invoices from their suppliers. As a result, benchmarking of various contractors’ food prices consistently identifies them as being an expensive option – see the 30% stat mentioned earlier.

If this appears unpalatable or indeed financially unfeasible, then let’s take a deeper look at the in-house option for you…

A skilled and experienced Catering Manager will be critical. A competent, professional team will ensure all the required deliverables will follow, from food quality and innovation to food safety and compliance, with visibility and the control of costs. So often a decision is taken to outsource owing to concerns about being able to find people, at a time where labour and skills shortages have become a stark reality. However, remember that contract caterers don’t have a secret pool from which to draw workers and talent! In fact, you may be able to attract – and keep – stronger team members by the lure of in house, where they will be bought in to your values and engaged with your goals. The transition to an in-house operation will also support a culture of inclusion, as the catering team are employed directly by the school.

How to support your in-house catering team

Attracted to the digital platforms, access to other tech and other support services proffered by an outsourced option? Don’t make the move on account of these things – there are ways to better enable an in-house team, more cost-effectively. For example, an expert food procurement partner will deliver both cost savings, risk mitigation and industry leading tech. allmanhall do just that!

“allmanhall not only continue to deliver the savings and quality promised but also streamlined the back office operation… administrative support is first class… we have been able to take the girls’ catering experience to a much higher level.”

– Graham Bond, Bursar, Burgess Hill School

We will help you reduce waste and improve operating efficiencies through a catering controls platform to track and manage every penny of spend and make stock audits simple. As a food procurement partner, allmanhall will manage suppliers and mitigate risk whist negotiating food prices and providing insight to help you know what’s happening with food inflation and product availability.  Whilst also mitigating more operational risks regarding allergens and ready-access to vital data.

“The software is used almost daily… The knowledge and confidence provided through use of the catering control platform has transcended across the department and it’s hard to know how we ever managed without it.”

– James Lindsay, Operations Manager, Badminton School

Digital support extends to your ESG needs, with a procurement partner like allmanhall able to provide your in-house catering team with tech to assess the carbon impact of your menus and provide full visibility of an accredited and well-managed supply chain, being held to the highest and most sustainable standards.

As you can see, the argument for outsourced, in order to access technology or for sustainability reasons, is substantially diminished when you surround your in-house team with an expert food procurement partner… who will deliver all that for up with up to 30% food cost savings.

At allmanhall, we will also be able to deliver dietetic advice and regulatory compliance updates, as well as everything from menu design and food innovation to in-house staff training. Any concerns you may have over health and safety or allergen management can be alleviated. Hands-on support is provided by the allmanhall team, for your peace of mind.

“Nothing is too much trouble… a truly essential service… a critical partner without whom we could not achieve the support or savings we see today.”  

– Chris Ingram, Head of Catering, ACS International Schools


Great food service does not always require a costly silver fork! A competent team and a dedicated support partner like allmanhall will ensure the in-house solution is a success, enabling you to achieve significant – and perhaps necessary – cost savings and price increase mitigation and reduce the impact of food inflation on your school.

If your reasons for considering outsourced were access to digital technology or to support your sustainability journey, please know that in house can deliver all that at a more appealing price.

And when it comes to operational risk, why not develop and retain a team that are truly yours. They will be more greatly engaged with your values and culture, and you can access added support for learning and knowledge from the experts at allmanhall.

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