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uying the right products at the right price is crucial to all businesses. Hospi- tality is no exception and food and drink is one of the obvious examples. In principle it doesn’t matter if you are buying caviar or carrots, Champagne or Coca-Cola; getting the best price matters. What all operators need is the product they want at a price that allows them to make a profit.

If the fundamentals of buying and selling

are constant, the way to make the most of your purchasing power has changed radically, thanks to computers. Skilful buyers and book- keepers might still be important but they have a lot more in their armoury nowadays, includ- ing sophisticated computer software. For those that want more time on running their business as opposed to buying for it, both the computing power and the expertise to analyse it can be done by others. The com- panies that offer procurement services work by organising the relationships between cus- tomers and their suppliers, often using their own specially developed computer systems. The aim is to save not just money, but time. A good example is Pelican Procurement, which acts for a range of hospitality custom- ers, including City Lodge hotel group, Swire

Hotels, the Great Little Pub Company and Baxters restaurants. Matt Ferris, system manager at Pelican,

works with Pi, the company’s name for its spe- cially developed procurement software pro- gram. He says the first thing an operator should do is to examine what they are doing at that moment. This means looking at what they are buying, who they are buying it from and how the ordering and delivery process occurs. One of the first revealing things that can happen with some companies is that management is unsure about these apparently basic questions. Ferris says: “Some managers don’t know the detail of what they are buying or how the pro- cess works, partly because it varies in differ- ent parts of the business or on different sites.” Not surprisingly in such circumstances, one of the first money-saving steps that can be taken is to consolidate buying so that better deals can be negotiated. This might include a formal tender process so that buyers can get the right balance of service, quality and price. It can also provide good market compari- sons as it organises purchasing from enough suppliers to know the typical price for most of what its clients want to buy. This makes overpaying less likely because it is able to

“The companies that offer procurement services work by organising the relationships between customers and their suppliers”

Technology Prospectus 2017 | 39

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