Edinburgh Leisure is the biggest sport and leisure provider in Edinburgh with over 30 venues, 15 gyms, 10 swimming pools, and is also host to over 700 fitness classes per week. If you’re looking to get active and healthy in Edinburgh, chances are you’ll be using one of Edinburgh Leisure’s facilities to do so, at some stage.
Landmark venues for the group include the Royal Commonwealth Pool, Meadowbank Sports Centre, the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena (EICA) and the Braid Hills Golf Course to name a few. Edinburgh Leisure manages sport and leisure facilities on behalf of The City of Edinburgh Council, delivering vital health and wellbeing services to the city’s local communities.
The organisation, which is approaching its 20th anniversary in 2018, is run as a trust, which means it holds charitable status so every penny made is invested back in to the organisation. With a turnover of almost £30 million per annum, 800 employees and 4.8 million customer visits a year across the multiple sites, it certainly takes some managing.
Andrew Forrest joined Edinburgh Leisure in March 2015 as the Group Catering Manager and was faced with the task of centrally reviewing the management and procurement of the catering function, which until then, had been managed at site-level.
With over two decades of general management experience in the commercial sector doing just that, including roles with Marriott International, Macdonald Hotels, Portland Hotels, Compass Group and ARAMARK UK, Andrew’s knowledge and experience made him particularly well placed to help transform the catering operations and deliver efficiencies for the trust.
Our key objectives
“When I joined Edinburgh Leisure, one of my objectives was to creative a sustainable business model, with a focus on managing expenditure across all areas of the catering business,” explains Andrew. “As a charitable trust, we rely on funding from our key partner the City of Edinburgh Council and others, including NHS Lothian. Sadly this cash injection has been reducing over recent years. We therefore needed to ensure the group operates as efficiently as possible, so we can protect all 30 venues that our community relies on every day.”
One of the first tasks for Andrew was to undertake a complete review of the catering function. It was clear from the outset that in order to make efficiency savings, a challenge would be to centralise the complete procurement process in-house.
As Andrew explains: “I could immediately see we would benefit from overhauling in the way the catering function was handled. Originally, products were purchased by each site, however as the group expanded the catering needs mushroomed”
Two resulting objectives from the review were to improve procurement transparency and to centralise management control of the function. With no procurement manager in place, there was an immediate need to improve visibility of what was being bought across all sites and to regain control to better manage expenditure as well as standardising offerings and quality across all venues. No mean feat.
Continues Andrew: “At that time, by chance, I was attending the CIS awards in Glasgow and that year Pelican Procurement won an award for ‘best innovation’ with a system that was helping organisations improve transparency of the procurement process and take back control of their purchasing budgets and processes. So I simply had to talk to them!
The perfect solution
“I was very interested to hear that there was a solution out there that merges procurement knowledge and expertise with financial management information. For me, that’s when the penny dropped; Pelican could help not only consolidate suppliers through formal tenders, but I could see that its online tech could bring everything together.”
“We needed to move away from each site having different suppliers, buying different products – or even the same – products but at different rates. Following the detailed review of our current purchasing products and processes we were able to consolidate our ambient, frozen, chilled, butchery, fruit and vegetables, dairy, soft drinks and confectionary from one supplier. And through the tender exercise which was managed by Pelican, we have achieved saving of 14% of the annual catering budget.”
Confirms Andrew: “Transparency and control was what I was after and, with Pi, I have it in abundance. It is my procurement toolkit, which has given me a lot of assurances. I have management information at my fingertips. The Edinburgh Leisure catering team can see what’s been bought by category level, by site level, by day, week, month, what stock we have – you name it. We also use the online ordering, menu management and automated supplier payment systems too. It means I can make quick, informed decisions.
“In fact, originally I would have had to employ another staff member to support the procurement management, however that hasn’t been required, meaning another cost saving has been achieved. The technology is there and it works. It has removed the need for manual interventions, meaning no more paperwork nightmares.”
So what’s next?
Heading into 2017, Andrew has started to review additional product categories, with coffee currently in the spotlight. Many customers visit the cafes and restaurants to socialise with friends over a coffee, and the income from this is growing.
“As this is a big growth opportunity for us, it is so important to get our coffee offering right” explains Andrew. “I am seeking a long-term solution to improve quality and standardise the service. Coffee currently represents at least 10% of the overall food and drink spend and therefore the review will help me find the best product, at the best price, with added advantages of supporting point of sale merchandise and branding and team ‘barista’ training so our team is able to achieve the perfect serve.”
A review of other lines, such as disposables and non-food items, will follow later in 2017.
Concludes Andrew: “It’s been a fantastic journey – in less than two years, I’ve already achieved cost savings of 14% and the aim is to increase this further still through the other categories. Working with Pelican means I have the expertise of a team at the end of the phone so can ask for advice at any time, yet without any cost to the organisation.
“I’ve been able to take back control, create savings and ultimately have the visibility I need that enables us as a group to continue providing our customers with what they want at all of our venues across the region, and with greater operational efficiencies than ever before.”