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Case studies

Business & industry

Merritt-Harrison was commissioned by an international company to undertake an operational and financial review of the catering service at its European head office. A number of key issues were identified, which we assisted in resolving. When the catering contract came up for renewal, the consultancy was appointed to support the tender process. The new contract demonstrated an enhanced level of food and service. However, four years later, when we were asked to undertake a strategic review of the catering service, we identified a decline in standards and some serious financial concerns, resulting in a £0.25 million payback from the caterer to the client. The decision was made to retender the catering service, supported by Merritt-Harrison, which resulted in a new caterer and significant improvements in quality and financial performance. The consultancy provided further contract management support over a number of years, including quality monitoring and monthly reviews with the client and caterer, to ensure adherence to agreed budgets and maintenance of operational standards.

Merritt-Harrison Catering Consultancy, catering, food service and facilities management
Leisure & retail

Merritt-Harrison carried out a review of soft FM services at a leading visitor attraction to inform its future procurement strategy. The review covered an award-winning restaurant, cafés, events and other services including cleaning, pest control and waste management. Options for retendering the various contracts were considered and recommendations presented for board approval. The consultancy assisted with the development of tender documentation and the technical and financial evaluation of bids. Significant outcomes were an enhanced food offer for visitors and financial benefits for the client, including capital investment in the catering facilities by the contractor. The consultancy was retained to monitor the new contract, ensuring that the commitments made in the contractor’s tender submission were delivered.


Merritt-Harrison was commissioned to undertake a review and option appraisal of catering provision for one of the main European institutions. The multi-million-pound contract covered over forty outlets including staff restaurants, coffee shops, conferencing and corporate events. Our report considered the operational and financial challenges posed by the existing arrangements and made strategic recommendations on the future contract shape, the relative advantages of in-house and contracted services, and the ongoing management of the contract. The consultancy was subsequently appointed to review the business case and develop a marketing plan for an inter-institutional centre offering sports, conference and private hire facilities, and made recommendations on its future viability.


Merritt-Harrison was initially appointed to undertake two days’ work for a county council that was sceptical of the advantages of using consultants, based on previous experience. The quality of our work since then has resulted in the consultancy advising the council on a wide range of catering issues over the past decade. We assisted with the tendering of the catering contract for over 200 primary and special schools, and then the retendering of the contract on two occasions, based on a framework available to all schools in the county to call off, as well as the tendering of catering and cleaning services across the county. Our services have encompassed advice on public procurement procedures, development of tender documentation, evaluation of bids, consultation with schools, and support with mobilisation and contract management. We have developed and led seminars for head teachers and school business managers on catering performance management, and delivered training to the client team in food safety and contract monitoring. On the council’s recommendation, the consultancy has also provided catering advice to numerous individual schools within the county.


Merritt-Harrison provided consultancy support to a leading NHS foundation trust for over twenty years. We undertook a review of the trust’s central production unit, carried out market research into patient catering services, developed a marketing plan for catering services and provided expert advice to the interview panel for senior catering management appointments. The consultancy was subsequently appointed to prepare an outline business case for a new methodology for delivering a cost-effective, quality catering service. Following preparation of a long list of service delivery options, the preferred options were costed using financial modelling and developed into the full business case. We supported the implementation of the chosen option, including design of the catering facilities, value engineering and provision of advice through to completion of the project. On the instruction of the trust, the consultancy also prepared, within a highly restricted time frame, a coffee shop concept, design and business plan for a retail catering facility for outpatients, staff and visitors.


Merritt-Harrison was commissioned by a housing association to undertake an operational and financial review of catering provision at one of its care homes and to comment on plans for the design and operation of a new catering facility at another location. A business development feasibility study also examined the potential to provide catering to third parties and residents of other homes within the group. The consultancy provided further support with the management of catering services, including monitoring of food quality, health and safety, attendance and advice at staff recruitment interviews, mentoring of management in menu costing and food allergen training for all catering staff.


Merritt-Harrison undertook an option appraisal for a proposed new café at a community arts centre, which was to be redeveloped with the help of lottery funds. Following market research into the local competition and consultation with stakeholders, the catering concept was developed based on identification of the target market, aspirations and constraints. Three design options were prepared for consideration by the trustees and financial models were developed, based on the use of both staff and volunteers, to demonstrate the viability of the preferred option. The advantages and disadvantages of contracting out the catering service were also highlighted and job descriptions prepared for key staff.

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