BUYING RESPONSIBLY can be a pretty complicated business. So many people... a maze of process and compliance... so many different things to consider. If that isn’t enough - there is now increased scrutiny on the outputs...
Imagine the bun fight: In the blue corner – operational management, finance, purchasing and IT. In the red corner, back of house, customers, clients, accreditation organisations and Government. The supply chain is the Referee. As to whether it’s a knock out in round 1 or round 12 - that is often down to the rigour of the partners you choose to work with.
Purchasing is simple, yet complex. Pay for what you get, get what you pay for. But, so much goes into doing it right and doing the right thing.
The problem with food is that it’s emotional – and always will be. Along with the traditional issues of price and supply chain, sustainability and environmental awareness are now high on the agenda of both operators and consumers. The challenge for the hospitality sector is demonstrating the effects of their efforts.
Not that long ago “the numbers” would tell you where you had gone wrong (or right), not that you are going wrong (or doing better).
There’s a numbers obsession now; an expectation that information (any sort of information) will be immediately available, as a result of technological advances that allows organisations to consume, manipulate and analyse data in real time.
So what does this mean for the hospitality industry? Fundamentally, embracing change and implementing new business practices comes with inherent challenge. Add in the issue of applying technological changes and realising its potential - the challenges quickly mount. There’s no quick or easy answer but we are seeing those organisations embracing and harnessing the power of technology enjoy a real advantage, using “the numbers” not only as a valuable business management tool but as a means of informing and engaging customers.
“Knowledge is power” a wise man once said, and the key to buying power is data, data and more data. Once you’ve gotten to grips with that, it’s down to the individual product.
It’s increasingly commonplace to have access to a product’s specification, beyond pack size and price, such as nutritional information, its supply credentials and so on. The great thing is that when any of these attributes change then so will the data file - ensuring that operators are always up to date.
Build this data into an electronic online platform and you are all set to not only order goods online but use the data to calculate recipe costings, report on recipe content, manage your budgets, link with your finance system and report your responsible buying profile. It all intrinsically links to deliver a seamless platform that supports the vast majority of management processes that are common to any food service business.
Back to the bun fight....
There’s a range of goals that each participant in the buying process wants to achieve to prosper and flourish. Many goals are common, such as growth, profitability, customer retention, efficiency and reliability. Until quite recently interested parties to the purchasing process were fighting their corners according to their specific agendas and win/win outcomes were not so easy to achieve. But, there has been a change over the last 18 months or so.
Specifically an increased need to work together to openly share information to comply with Food Information Regulations. Take for example, Acquire’s responsible buying framework – Green10 - which has led to an environment of co-operation and vastly improved provenance and attribute information availability for operators. Information that can easily be shared with customers to demonstrate their commitment to improve and onwardly monitor their buying profile.
This era of glasnost is set to continue as all stakeholders are beginning to appreciate the power of sharing such information with each other, leading to a more collaborative approach that benefits every party in the chain.
The initial challenge, of course, is where to start and how to get a foothold onto a ladder that will ultimately lead to a business being able to quantify progress as far as its responsible sourcing initiatives are concerned. Making the right choices to drive these initiatives is much easier when the numbers “are there to help”.
Embracing the availability of business intelligence dashboards that bring all of the information together in one place along with the input of hundreds of suppliers, accreditation bodies and distributors is one way forward. It’s a reality which can now help any food service business shape, control and monitor responsible sourcing activity, purchasing and sustainability profiles producing immediate and lasting benefits for the organisations themselves, their business environment and their customers. The opportunity for business advancement through ‘doing business in the way your customers want’, is now being realised by many. It’s not difficult .... it doesn’t need to be a bun fight. It’s right here at your fingertips.....
Andy Badger is the Managing Director of Acquire Services Limited