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Tendering process

When it comes to tendering food and beverage procurement, we receive many questions from clients who are unsure of what the tender process involves, whether they need to follow UK procurement legislation and what benefits tendering delivers.

Our expertise in food purchasing is unique in the marketplace. We have a team of CIPS-qualified (Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply) experts who manage all aspects of formal food tendering on behalf of our clients, adhering to UK procurement legislation and the highest standards of professional practice. We spoke to Kim Goodchild, Tender Team Manager, to answer some of the questions we are most often asked.

Q: What if my individual product categories are under the UK-tender threshold figure?

At Pelican, we look at all the categories that are being reviewed under the tender process to determine the best approach. The client does have some flexibility; however, we will advise clients on the best approach depending on what their overall needs are, and key drivers for initiating a tender.

Some clients want to go via the UK procurement tender route from a compliance point of view and to demonstrate the steps they have gone through. However, when clients want flexibility, we are able to help shape it with them.

In a nutshell, when a client is about to embark on a tender, it is beneficial to have conversations regarding categories and spend before you decide which route to go down.

Q: Are tender documents standard, or do I have the opportunity to influence the detail and requirements?

Here at Pelican, all of our tender documents are bespoke – this is very important for differentiation, as all clients’ needs are different.

There are of course certain things we have to comply with to make it UK procurement friendly; the way we tender, evaluate, present and announce the tender has to be compliant taking into account all relevant UK procurement legislation.

However, the bespoke part of the tender is based on the client’s requirements. They may want five days a week delivery for example, or timing of deliveries between certain hours, or ensure the quality of the product meets their operational needs.

All information on the pricing schedule has the product specifications, which is bespoke for the client. So, while we follow all the required UK tender regulations, we do pay a lot of attention to the factors that are bespoke to the client’s needs; we offer a tailor-made approach.

Q: What is involved in the fact-finding step of the process?

Fact-finding is an important early step in the process. Here, it is our opportunity to really understand the client’s needs. We have an ‘A-Z‘ of supply chain questions, which cover the client’s timings, service level expectations, deliveries, logistics, product specification, what’s currently working in the supply chain, and what’s not.

We also interview the financial team and the operational team, as we need to understand what’s happening on both sides. For example, the operation’s main concern may well be ‘I need the deliveries to be at a set time’, whereas the bursars or financial directors are focused on the cost of the products being procured. Once we have completed this exercise, we then know what is required in the bidding documents.

Q: How do you benchmark the existing purchasing processes, pre-tender stage?

At Pelican, we would ask a client to send us a snapshot of their current purchasing – this would be a typical basket, preferably in Excel format. This would enable us to benchmark the products they buy against the Pelican supplier database that consists of tendered prices for other clients. We tender hundreds of product categories each year and receive suppliers’ most competitive bids on a weekly basis.

The reason for benchmarking prior to tendering is to test potential savings; we are able to provide an indicative report of what savings are possible and by doing so give clients confidence and set realistic expectations.

Q: When drafting the tender document, what are the key areas that are included?

We work closely with clients to include all pertinent information in the draft. This includes discussing the following areas:

a. Talk about spend – what is currently being spent on key products

b. Categories – what categories the tender will focus on

c. Compliance – what the compliance requirements look like

d. Service levels – what service levels you need suppliers to adhere to

e. Quality – what quality levels you need suppliers to meet

f. Bespoke – we discuss any unique parameters to the client and include tailor-made requirements

At the outset, we discuss all the benefits of bespoke tendering vs disadvantages/pitfalls of framework agreements, in order to agree on the best approach.

Q: As part of the tender process, am I able to visit the new suppliers who are pitching for our business?

Yes, before any contract is awarded, we can arrange supplier site visits so you can see their operations first-hand.

Q: What are the general stages of any tender process?

  1. Identify current and future needs
  2. Create tender specification document
  3. Identify suitable bidders (suppliers) and issue an Invitation to Tender
  4. Carry out detailed evaluation of all submissions
  5. Produce a line by line savings report
  6. Ensure suppliers comply and meet standards
  7. Produce an evaluation report
  8. Shortlist suppliers
  9. Award the contract to the successful suppliers
  10. Mobilisation of contract
  11. Post-tender supply chain management

All Pelican teams involved will support the client through all stages of the tender process and throughout the contract period from mobilisation.

We’re here to help.

If you would like the Pelican procurement team to assist you with professional tendering or need impartial procurement advice – please email us at

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