Continuing our series looking behind the scenes at some of the major suppliers to the hospitality market, we catch up with Chris Durant, director, Beacon Purchasing.
Q How would you describe your business?
A Beacon is the UK's largest purchasing consortium for the independent hospitality industry, with more than 2,000 members. Through our collective buying power and sector expertise we work with independent businesses, mainly in the hotel and leisure sectors, to enable them to compete more effectively with their larger competitors.
That said, we've also seen significant growth in the last two years with group businesses, who recognise the positive impact that effective buying makes to their bottom line.
Q What is the company's objective?
A We've negotiated deals with over 130 suppliers offering a diverse range of products and services from food and drink to housekeeping, consumables and refurbishment.
But we're more than just a "dating agency" between suppliers and customers. Increasingly we work with organisations to develop complete strategic purchasing solutions. Besides our core purchasing services, we also provide outsourced purchasing management where the customer's buying patterns are reviewed far more strategically.
We recently launched Beacon Online, a web-based system designed to improve purchasing effectiveness, productivity and ultimately profit. At its simplest level it provides online purchasing, but it also enables a link into finance systems, budget planning and spend management. Critically, it provides live data on spend at product level, allowing informed management decisions to be made about purchasing.
Q What are the current issues facing your food service customers?
A Getting the best price has always been a key priority and in the current climate it's even more key. But there needs to be a balance. It's short sighted to think only in terms of cost - it's about best value, which embraces quality, service and reliability as well as price.
On the supply side, we're seeing suppliers get tougher on credit checks and payment terms driven by fears, and experience, of the rising number of business failures. Customers are seeking longer times to pay to assist with cashflow and suppliers are looking at shorter times. It's a real challenge.
Q How do you help them address these issues?
A The key word is collaboration, working together to come up with effective purchasing solutions based on everyone's business needs.
Beacon has a professional buying team, but we also have key account managers who maintain regular contact with our members. Smaller businesses appreciate the help we offer in terms of central billing. We also have an annual supplier exhibition.
Q What are the questions your customers ask most regularly?
A Price is always a priority. People are still making cutbacks in this uncertain climate. But cheap can be expensive in the long run and people are beginning to realise this.
That said, our customers are also more aware of and concerned about the environment and responsible purchasing. They want to know whether they are buying products and services from businesses with a commitment to sustainability.
More importantly their own customers want to know - so being responsible makes commercial sense. That's why we launched our beacongreenhotel.co.uk award-winning website last year - it's a virtual hotel that provides green information and product ideas. We're committed to growing this website - talking to our suppliers about offering more environmentally-friendly, sustainable and local products.
Q Long term, where's the business going?
A I have ambitious growth plans for Beacon. But those plans will only be realised if we continue to put our customers at the heart of everything we do and deliver consistently measurable value for them. That's our aim and our challenge.
Company name Beacon Purchasing
Address Consort House, Amy Johnson Way, Clifton Moor, York YO30 4GP
Tel 01904 695588
Area of operation National
Products Food and drink, housekeeping and consumables, utilities and services, and refurbishment and maintenance
Market sectors Anything in the hospitality and leisure sectors from hotels to care homes, campsites to zoos
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