15- Sep2022
Posted By: Tracy Lawler

Why Hire a Food Service Consultant?

I was recently asked in a peer review business meeting to discuss JGL’s value proposition. That question prompted some very good internal conversations with team JGL. We routinely run into potential clients who either don’t know enough to know they need a consultant or those who don’t see the value of a consultant. The former might include an auxiliary services director trying to be a team player or a CFO new to higher education who was involved with RFPs in a previous position.  The latter category might include a college procurement department who thinks all RFPs are the same and may not be well equipped to understand the nuances of a food services proposal.

Consultants do sometimes get a bad rap. I am reminded of a recent client meeting where the client, discussing something heard in an earlier presentation, said “That sounds like something a consultant would say”. She immediately looked at me and my colleague and said, “I mean other consultants – not you guys – you are terrific and have added so much value”.  Occasionally, however, client’s internal staff members are against bringing a consultant in. The common refrain we hear is “I really don’t understand why we need a consultant. An outside person isn’t going to tell me anything I don’t already know about my business.” While consultants do generally provide new insight into the business, consulting is also a consensus building exercise. A university food service vendor selection process, as an example, is a purchasing decision but it is also a value confirmation process with important experiential and financial ramifications for the institution. Guiding a committee through the decision-making process is a collaborative art.

My focus for this blog is the second category of clients discussed above – those who don’t see the value of a consultant and particularly for clients looking to start a food service vendor selection process. We have seen a big increase this year in potential clients deciding to self-manage their food service vendor selection (or RFP) process to save money. While that is understandable in the context of the pandemic and the resulting economic issues, in the long term it may well be penny wise and pound foolish. To help decide whether your organization should self-manage a vendor selection for food service consider the following:

  1. Do you have a strong understanding of the financial structure of the business?
  2. Are you confident you know what kinds of commissions, fees, capital expenditure or other funds the account should warrant?
  3. Do you believe the dining experience for students, faculty and staff is superior? If not, do you understand what needs to be done to achieve success?
  4. Are you familiar with foodservice industry norms and best practices?
  5. Do you have familiarity or access to food service contracts at similar institutions nationwide?
  6. Do you know the food service vendors nationwide currently operating in the market?
  7. Do you have the time to devote to the process?
  8. Do you understand what food service vendors need to develop a responsive proposal?

If the answer to more than two of these questions is no, then you might be better served hiring a food service consultant. The fees charged by a good food service consultant for a vendor selection process should self-liquidate (frequently in the first year).

The food service experience on your campus speaks volumes to students, faculty and staff. There are meaningful financial implications to the food service vendor selection process. It may be more important now than ever to consider hiring an experienced food service consultant for your next food service vendor selection process.

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