To tender is “the process of choosing the best or cheapest company to supply goods or do a job by asking several companies to make offers for supplying goods or undertaking the work” – Cambridge Dictionary.
For far too long now commercial catering facilities have been a “black hole” for main contractors & clients alike, with limited design, specification & integration into the scheme undertaken pre-tender. The design and specification of these facilities is an intricate process and requires a specialist with appropriate experience and knowledge to assist traditional project teams and caterers with the design of the facility. In most cases the commercial catering facility is the most sophisticated area of the entire project, due to highly complex machinery, design of bespoke items, termination of hundreds of electrical and plumbing services, before we even consider the design of the commercial kitchen ventilation systems.
As a Project Manager at Marshall Catering Equipment I have been asked to Tender for hundreds of projects over my 14 years in the industry. The quality of Tender Packages that have landed on my desk vary widely. From the sublime (with fully detailed and appropriately scaled layout drawings, with clear and concise bill of quantities / schedule of works) to the ridiculous (with “indicative kitchen drawing” which has clearly been given no thought and a “spec” that simply states “dishwasher”, “oven” etc.). The purpose of competitive Tendering is to obtain quotations and appoint a contractor to undertake the works, this should be done so on a detailed specification where prices can be compared on a like for like basis and not left up to the discretion / integrity of the tenderer. With such broad “descriptions” of equipment and no provision of a design brief or layout drawing, my question is how can a main contractor or indeed client make an appropriate appointment for the project? The answer in my eyes is that they cannot (unless they have extensive experience in the commercial catering industry, which is highly unlikely). When I Tender a job such as this (where spec is limited) I always err on the side of caution and offer what I’d consider to be medium or heavy duty appliances because I don’t want to create problems for the client or myself moving forward. I would estimate that my success rate on schemes such as this is around 10%, leading me to the conclusion that there are companies out there taking more risks on equipment spec in such circumstances, which is at the expense of the end user. This is also evident to me during site visits to quote for replacement equipment, I couldn’t tell you how many sites I’ve been to shortly after full refurbishments in order to replace items which have clearly been mis-specified initially. Unfortunately, the market has been flooded with sub-standard appliances masquerading as “commercial catering equipment”, when at best should be considered as “semi-commercial” or even “disposable catering equipment”.
As part of the Tendering process Tenderers should be required to provide a certificate of “Bona Fide Tendering”. This confirms that the bid submitted is above board, spec compliant and fit for purpose; however this is not possible without the provision of appropriate Tender Enquiry Documentation to base a bid on.
What I am trying to achieve is the understanding that appointment of a competent commercial catering facility designer in most instances is just as important as appointment of any other consultant on the scheme. This is because so many other packages / trades tasks depend upon the spec of the commercial catering facility. It’s not simply the capital cost of the catering equipment package that should be considered, it’s the overall cost of all packages together; a well-designed catering facility with careful consideration given to layout can reduce costs in the Builders and Mechanical & Electrical packages, in addition if consideration is given to ongoing maintenance costs, equipment running costs and product lifecycles there can be real money savings achieved, thus making an appropriately specified facility the most cost effective LONG TERM. In addition to this we all know very well it is more expensive for the client to make changes as a variation to contract further compounds the requirement for a proper design & spec to be produced pre-contract. When I prepare Tender Documentation on behalf of Marshall Catering Equipment I always aim to work hand in hand with the client (and catering staff if possible) to understand their requirements and prepare an appropriate design brief that becomes the foundation of all other Tender Documentation. We prepare a full and concise Schedule of Works (which includes instructions to tenderers, project details, design brief, bill of quantities / equipment spec, form of tender and certificate of bona fide tendering), this way we are protecting the client from a sub-standard installation. This is the only way for the client to end up with a facility that is fit for purpose, has appropriate energy efficiency and life expectancy. Without appropriate Tender Enquiry Documentation it CAN NOT be a fair Tender Process.
By Simon Dibbs – B.A. (Hons.)