This section was written by Colleen Nanno.
What is procurement?
Any hospitality operation would not be complete without the vital role of the procurement process. Procurement is the strategic process of sourcing products and services. There are two sides of this transaction which involve the following players:
- Purchaser: the individual(s) in this role acquires and sometimes negotiates for products and services of the desired quality at the desired price. Large scale hospitality operations typically have a dedicated purchasing employee or department. In smaller operations, this job mostly falls on managers, stewards, and chefs who are familiar with the detailed needs and inventory required for their respective areas.
- Vendors: also called Purveyors, these are companies that sell goods and services.
The purchasing of ingredients, supplies, and services is a daily task in most operations that requires experience and fierce attention to detail. In the position of a purchaser, it is important to take the time to make informed decisions when selecting which vendors will supply the business by comparing the quality and pricing of products. Typically, hospitality purchasers are looking to obtain items in two main classifications: food and non-food. There are often numerous vendors/purveyors to choose from, each with its own specialty. It is the responsibility of the purchaser to properly research and compare vendors to suit the needs of the establishment. Within the food realm, these companies could specialize in categories such as produce, meat, seafood, dry goods, beverages, as well as specialty ethnic ingredients. Under the umbrella of non-food products, one might search for paper goods, beauty products, equipment, supplies, or sanitation vendors.
“We employ Chefs with a solid foundation in the hospitality industry as they are able to give customers personal insight from their own experiences. Strong communication skills and an ability to work with others are absolutely key in hospitality. This industry is gigantic, yet at the same time, it is so small. Everyone knows everyone. I have enjoyed every minute working in this beautiful industry and have been able to build relationships with customers and those connections I still utilize to this day.”
- Gregg Huff, Director of School & Institutional Sales for Chef’s Toys of Trimark USA
Dealing with vendors on a daily basis, typically in high-pressure situations, it is natural for purchasers and purveyors to create strong relationships with each other which they can carry with them throughout their careers. Individuals with a background of working in the front lines of the hospitality industry often fare well in careers in purchasing or procurement. They are able to apply their experiential knowledge for the goods and services they are now overseeing the purchasing or sale of. Launching a career in the hospitality industry provides employees with infinite career paths, yet they all begin with the same foundation. There are countless career opportunities under the umbrella of purveying and procurement that can offer fulfillment and financial stability.
Some examples of careers in this area might include:
- Procurement Director
- Purchasing Manager
- Wholesale Food Sales Representative
- Gourmet Food Sales Representative
- Produce Broker
- Inventory Control Manager
- Corporate Chef
- Equipment Manufacturer Representative
- Equipment Dealer
“As a former produce broker, I was the liaison between the buyer and the farmer/seller. We were able to broker deals that were mutually beneficial to all parties from our access to farmers/sellers and through the power of negotiation. Our clients ranged from independent restaurants, franchised establishments to large scale grocery stores. At the time, I was a Culinary Arts graduate with some industry experience and was able to synthesize the applicable knowledge I had from the hospitality field with my duties as a produce broker. In the end, my experience working in the produce industry provided vital information towards becoming a more informed restaurant manager since I was able to understand things from the supply side as well as the customer.”
- Dana Ralston, General Manager at The Finn Restaurant (Prescott, AZ)
NRAEF Managefirst Inventory and Purchasing Competency Guide, National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, https://chooserestaurants.org/