What’s the Best Catering Software for Universities and Colleges?

Key Points

  • Providing allergen information is crucial for vulnerable groups like food-allergic students
  • Use software for costing and purchasing to provide value for money within the limitations of your contract
  • Adapt your menu instantly to keep up with students’ changeable food taste
  • Patronage can be variable competitive and sustainable
  • Use standardised recipes to maintain consistency across multiple sites


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Catering for the tertiary education sector, whether it’s further or higher education, has its own set of unique challenges. If your kitchen business is already established in the student market, or you’re a new caterer looking to break into this competitive and complex market, you’ll need to be well prepared. But how?!

Know the why, how and what of your catering software needs with our guide to :

What are the challenges facing university and college caterers?

Providing nutritional and allergy information


This is fast becoming non-negotiable, with all food outlets now legally required to provide allergy information to their customers. With an ever changing menu, multiple sites and often different suppliers, information needs to be in real-time, accurate and reliable.

A far more nutritionally clued-up generation than any previously, students expect to be able to make informed choices about their meals. With more and more information required of caterers, on top of cooking for special diets or allergies, it can be a tough prospect to keep track of it.

Purchasing and cost


There are many complex tendering regulations around catering for the FE and HE sector. If you are a specialist education caterer, or even an in-house team, restrictions within procurement contracts can mean that you must often follow a set purchasing procedure to secure best value for money for your college or university. In addition, the HE/FE caterer needs to compete with the high street to attract and sustain business.

This can be difficult when the cost of your supplies increase, or the cost of a dish is unknown. If you also regularly make special diet dishes to order, it’s useful to know where a substitute ingredient is more or less expensive, and how this will affect your budget spend against the sale. Costing information like this can make the difference between profit and loss.

Sustainability and waste


Tendering and procurement limitations can sometimes come at the cost of sustainability.

One aspect being reported by our education sector clients is that it can be difficult to source produce from local suppliers, when part of your contract specifies that cost must trump a supplier’s location or sustainability credentials. This can be especially difficult when combined with the very unique challenges of catering for varied numbers and special dietary requirements.

Very much intertwined with sustainability, caterers for the further and higher education sectors can face a huge waste problem. This can stem from the difficulty in forecasting meal numbers to drive provision orders, as well as stock management across multiple sites, and the growing numbers of special diets that must be accommodated. How do you plan a week’s menu with remnant stock items, or tweak it when an ingredient goes out of stock (or gets too expensive), without wasting your remaining store cupboard’ You need to have some idea what you are wasting and why, so you can cut down the wastage.

Maintaining consistency across sites


We’re not talking about consistent branding across sites, but consistency in food quality, standardised recipes, stock/inventory, and wastage management. When you have several sites across campuses, there are multiple issues to consider:

  • how do you ensure that food is made the same way everywhere by various different staff?
  • how do you transfer stock between sites, keep track of your inventory and identify discrepancies or duplicate entries?
  • how do your area/site managers all collate their records of deliveries, invoices and purchase orders?

Trends and changeable needs


Anyone with a teenager will tell you a simple yet universal truth: they are fickle and picky creatures! As well as accommodating college and university regulations, menus and recipes need to move with the times – incorporating trends and discarding others as they fall out of favour.

Variable numbers


Unlike schools, student numbers aren’t reliable as further education attendance often isn’t compulsory. Even if students do attend, lectures can be cancelled, not attended or moved to another campus. Students, meal times vary much more than school children, who have a set lunch break every day. Students, however, will eat between classes, get brunch, or eat lunch very late or not at all.

What issues does this cause for your food and catering operations’ It can mean that:

  • meal numbers are difficult to forecast
  • provision orders driven by variable numbers are more complex

Which catering software is right for HE and FE education caterers?

Let’s take stock of your challenges, and explore how our different Saffron products and modules can help your business overcome these and choose the best Catering Software for Universities and Colleges:

Your challenge

What’s the best product for this?

How it can help

Providing nutritional and allergy information Saffron Recipe and Menu Management module The Recipe and Menu Management module makes it simple to build nutritious meals and menus, as the store cupboard facility is populated by nutritionally analysed ingredients, looking at over 70 nutrients.

Healthy, balanced recipes can then be built and stored in the recipe card system. If you need to switch an ingredient for a recipe, it will update the nutritional analysis in real time.

You can also define benchmarked nutritional guidelines (or set your own) within this module, so when you build your recipes and menus, you’ll always know whether you’re meeting the nutritional guidelines stipulated in your contract, and you can report on this, too.

Saffron Allergens and Nutrition module The Allergens and Nutrition module in Saffron works in tandem with the Allergen web portal. Supporting compliance with the Food Information Regulations 2014, you can easily tag the main allergens and sub-allergens. This can be done manually or imported via your suppliers, so you can profile your allergen information at every level, from stock, to recipe, to menu.
Saffron Allergy Web Portal The web portal is the perfect customer-facing companion to provide customers with all the allergen information concerning your recipes and menu. With the millennial generation upon us, the allergen portal is the perfect partner to communicate your menus to the tech-savvy students you will be serving, accessible by mobile, tablet or PC. It’s also ideal for staff use, so they can communicate accurate, reliable information directly to allergic customers.
Purchasing and costs Saffron Recipe and Menu Management module The Recipe and Menu Management module works to cost your recipes and menus, so you know how much each dish is costing, linking ingredients in your store cupboard to real time pricing information. This ensures you always get value for money. You can report on performance so you can see how the costs pile up against your profit on each dish, how does their actual performance compare against your forecast?
Saffron Purchasing module The Purchasing module streamlines your payment to your suppliers, from automating your orders (be they ad-hoc, or templates) through to tracking deliveries and invoice, sending them, and even exchanging sales documentation.
Saffron Finance Centre module Our Finance Centre lets you analyse all of your spend and budgets, from income analysis to overheads and even petty cash for those last-minute, QUICK! We need milk from the Student Union shop, emergencies, so you can see at a glance how profits are doing in real time.
Sustainability and waste Saffron Stock module The Stock module lets you track your inventory’s whereabouts and levels, whether you need to see individual items or a top-level summary. It also has a function to record transfers and waste, with a reason code, so you can begin to analyse and reduce wastage.
Saffron Recipe and Menu Management module The handheld barcode reader Saffron Connect also streamlines and consolidates your stock-taking process so you always know what you have, even loose items like fruit and vegetables. And better stock management means more efficient usage!
Saffron Connect


The stock functions support your menu and recipe management, driving sensible provisions orders to minimise waste. Want to stick to a preferred supplier to manage both your prices and food miles. The store cupboard function within the menu and recipe management module lets you store preferred supplier details, and suggests and remembers details like pack size, so you’ll always buy the right amount you need.
Maintaining consistency across sites Saffron Finance Centre module The Finance Centre module lets you centralise real-time data from different sites and departments in one place, perfect if you’re situated across different campuses.
Documents module Maintaining consistency across all your different teams is also enabled by the Saffron Documents module, so that information, policies, procedures and adherence to any required regulation is quickly and easily disseminated to all team members. It can be anything from a recipe card to health and safety!
Trends and changeable needs Saffron Recipe and Menu Management module Building your menu is easy with the Recipe and Menu Management module, as you can switch ingredients to see the instant cost and nutrition effects. It’s easy to collate your recipes into various menu cycles so you’re always ready to change it up and move with seasonal trends.
Variable numbers Saffron Recipe and Menu Management module Drive your supplier orders with the

Recipe and Menu Management

module, whether you need ad-hoc or repeat orders. Saffron can even suggest orders too.


What do our university and college catering customers recommend?

We asked Rob Clarke, Catering Manager at Fitzwilliam College who uses the nutritional analysis and allergen information about his experiences with Saffron:

“I knew that schools were already legally obliged to manage their nutritional information and thought that sooner or later colleges would fall under the same legal obligation – so I wanted to be ahead of the game. I also knew that students are more clued up on food facts these days so it would be good to offer them the information. I’m not sure how else we would do this once new legislation comes in!

“Undoubtedly the biggest back office problem is resources. We have to write many different menus each week so we have populated the system with over 1,000 different recipes. These are then put in a menu format with a hyperlink to the Saffron system, so students and conference guests can see the nutritional and allergen information at a glance. Saffron provides very useful information in a very professional format.”


Want to know what our other Saffron customers say’ Read our case studies here to hear how other real businesses use it.

Thinking of expanding into university catering, or making your existing university/college catering contracts more efficient and profitable? To see how our software helps, give us a call on +44 (0)114 281 6060 or contact us.

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