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Merritt-Harrison supports the Botanics to raise catering standards

Merritt-Harrison Catering Consultancy supported the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh with a review and successful retendering of its soft FM services, including the complex catering requirements at the Edinburgh Garden.

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, located just one mile from the city centre, offers a tranquil haven for residents of Edinburgh and tourists alike, and is a popular all-year-round destination, with annual visitor numbers exceeding 800,000. Visitors to the Garden can choose from a wide range of catering options, from drinks and snacks at the East Gate Coffee Bar to lunch in the self-service Terrace Café or full waited restaurant service in the iconic, eco-friendly John Hope Gateway building. Fresh produce from the Garden’s Edible Gardening Project is used extensively in seasonal menus for the Gateway Restaurant, which holds VisitScotland’s Taste our Best accreditation. The Garden is widely acknowledged to be a unique and outstanding venue within Scotland, hosting business meetings, weddings and public events throughout the year.

Merritt-Harrison Catering Consultancy was appointed to carry out a review of catering and other soft FM services for the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE), and to advise on the best strategy for retendering these contracts, not only at the Edinburgh Garden but also RBGE’s Regional Gardens at Benmore, Dawyck and Logan. The contract arrangements had evolved over time and there were multiple contracts in place for the various services and locations. A number of options were considered for the future and the relative advantages and disadvantages of bringing all services at all locations into the same contract, as opposed to segmenting the contract in various ways, were discussed with RBGE. It was agreed that the majority of services would form the main soft FM contract, with some of the other services and locations potentially being incorporated once the existing contracts had expired.

With catering accounting for a significant proportion of the overall contract value, the consultancy’s strategic review focused primarily on the catering services at the Edinburgh Garden, encompassing the restaurant (table service) and bar in the John Hope Gateway building, the Terrace Café (self-service dining) and the East Gate Lodge coffee shop, as well as catering for RBGE staff and events in the Caledonian Hall and other venues throughout the Garden. The review highlighted a number of aspects of the services that needed to be clarified and strengthened in the specification and contract documentation, in readiness for the forthcoming tender exercise.

On completion of the review, Merritt-Harrison was asked to support RBGE with the tender process for catering and other soft FM services, including development of the specification, attendance at the tenderers’ meeting at the Garden, responding to questions from tenderers, technical and financial evaluation of bids and post-tender clarification. The tender process followed a restricted procedure and attracted interest from a range of local, national and international companies. Following the pre-qualification stage, six companies were invited to tender, bids were evaluated and the successful tenderer, Sodexo, was selected on the basis of an enhanced food offer for visitors and financial benefits to RBGE.

The new contract has brought significant capital investment into the catering facilities, including refurbishment of the Terrace Café to create a more contemporary and inviting environment, in keeping with its stunning location overlooking Edinburgh’s skyline. The contract also includes a concession payment from the caterer that will be used to further develop the work of RBGE.

Merritt-Harrison was subsequently appointed to provide ongoing monitoring support, to ensure that the commitments made in the tender submission were delivered in practice.

Heather Jackson, RBGE’s Director of Enterprise, said: “We are delighted with the outcome of the soft FM tender process and look forward to a very bright future for catering and venue hire in particular, with much more robust parameters in place for delivering growth.”

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Merritt-Harrison supports the Botanics to raise catering standards
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