The impact from Covid-19 continues to send ripples across the entire hospitality industry, and all segments within it. Most segments of hospitality have seen reduced volumes in every aspect of their operations, amidst this some level of adjustment will need to be made in preparing for the conclusion of Brexit.
The UK has already left the EU and the transition period ends on 31 December 2020. With all the furore surrounding Covid-19 it is all too easy to let the ramifications of departure from the EU sit quietly in the background, so we’re not.
Procurement is key to both Covid-19 and leaving the EU, so we spent five minutes talking with Allister Richards, COO, CH&CO, to examine how one of the giants of foodservice is dealing with both matters in relation to their procurement processes.
Covid & Brexit procurement
H&C News: How has Covid-19 changed procurement? How will the ongoing Covid-19 landscape see procurement developing?
Allister Richards: “I think it’s having a massive impact. Not only have our supply partners faced an immediate and material downturn in volumes, but we are all struggling (although trying our best) to give accurate and reliable forecasts so they can plan stock holding levels and carefully manage any returns from furlough. It’s a tricky balance and we need to work together and communicate openly. Transparency is key.
“It means doing the obvious things like forward-planning with regards to menus, but also trying to support our suppliers, particularly the smaller niche and independent partners, to find ways to cope with the cost and complexity involved in COVID secure deliveries. It’s been so sad to see some fantastic suppliers ceasing trading as a direct result of the pandemic. So we’re doing things like finding simpler, more cost-effective ways of managing deliveries for this community of partners, so that in turn they can reduce their overheads.
“Our reality is that we have fewer team-members in our kitchens, so reducing the number of deliveries going to site for them to ‘see-in’ at the kitchen door is just common sense. The time it takes to comply with strict physical distancing and stringent hygiene practices – for us and for our suppliers – means it’s a necessity to make sure we use the time and resources we have efficiently. We’re approaching it as a way to help smaller suppliers to get a lower-cost route to market, and giving them access to a wider distribution network to expand their reach.
“And we must never forget that our customers’ needs, and expectations have been affected by COVID-19 too. Through lockdown, we’ve all had a renewed reliance, and therefore appreciation of our local shops and facilities. Relationships have been formed, trust has been established and through a period of intense pressure and heightened sensitivity, consumers are seeking the reassurance of simpler food chains. There is an ever-growing demand for local and an interest in the security and sustainability of what we buy and what we eat. Our approach to procurement has to embrace those issues.”
H&C News: Although Brexit is now very much on the side-lines, how has procurement changed in planning for and post Brexit?
Allister Richards: “Our approach hasn’t fundamentally changed, as we continue to identify, monitor and mitigate potential risk areas, including a no-deal Brexit. But I suppose what has changed is the recognition that some events will be out of our control, and indeed Covid-19 itself may generate impacts our original plans did not consider.
“To counter-balance this, our chef teams, supported by procurement and operations, have developed ways in which our site based colleagues can be agile and adapt at short notice. That’s about menu planning, supplier flexibility, ensuring we understand and buy according to the UK’s growing seasons, and communicating often and early.
“But overall, let’s be honest. Whilst there’s certainly no complacency at play here, and we have plans, contingency plans and plan ‘C’s… one thing is for sure – if we can cope with the last few months we can and will cope with whatever challenges Brexit throws our way. If we didn’t know it before, we’ve had a reminder that we are a resilient bunch in hospitality.”
H&C News would like to thank Allister for his time and insights.
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Covid & Brexit procurement – 2 September 2020 – Covid & Brexit procurement