Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) is one of the UK’s leading research-focused higher education institutions. With over 21,000 students, 4,000 staff and an annual turnover of £300m, of which £2.5m is derived from commercial hospitality services, it is one of the largest University of London colleges.
We spoke to the Head of Catering and Hospitality, Graham Brundle, who oversees the hospitality and catering department at QMUL, to discuss the challenges faced in adding greater transparency and control into catering procurement and purchasing:
“One of my department’s most significant challenges was to establish financial transparency and an audit trail that feeds back through to the internal financial services team. Part of our overall strategic plan was therefore to review purchasing and procurement for the catering business.”
Searching for a procurement partner
“I wanted to have a closer eye on the purchasing, supply chain and financial management of the department, as our annual food spend was around £700,000. Through my experience I felt we could address the matter of cost savings and review the quality of services from our suppliers, while also transitioning to a more modern, online way of working to bring all the procurement and financial elements of the department into alignment.”
Initially Graham and his team investigated which companies could assist them in acting as a ‘one stop shop’ to manage their complete purchasing process, financial management and the sustained delivery of those services.
Reflects Graham: “Having spoken with various procurement companies, we found they couldn’t help us with all elements. It wasn’t until I contacted Pelican that we found they covered all the areas we were looking for. They were able to demonstrate that they have detailed industry knowledge and purchasing expertise with support service levels behind it. But, more importantly they provided the financial and back-office system that would provide the transparency we were looking for in our operation.
Benefits of bespoke procurement solution
A tender process was initiated for all categories – from meat, seafood, disposables to confectionary, as Graham explains: “It was great to have a specialist managing the entire tendering process to see whether cost savings could be achieved on the exact items we were already buying. In fact, it completely exceeded our expectations, as we were able to realise impressive financial savings of over £117,000.”
Continues Graham: “Not only have we benefited from a cost perspective, but we now have significantly more visibility over our financial management through an online purchase-to-pay system, which helps me to deliver my job in a more sustainable way. The online tool gives you sufficient information on the spot, so you can instantly see where your business stands at any given time. To me, this is a far more efficient and transparent way of managing our operation than the previous, internal system.”
“In the past, we found it very difficult to make assumptions and plan for the long-term. However, now we have immediate access to live purchasing data which helps us to fully understand what is going on with our catering and hospitality operation at any one time which is critical to our success as a department.”
“Since working with Pelican QMUL’s catering and hospitality department has become more efficient in its practices and its management of the purchasing process: We have far more insight into the financial elements of the business than ever before. We find ourselves spending less time dealing with supply chain, which creates significant time savings all round enabling us to focus more on front of house tasks and development. Any issues or reconciliations are now very efficiently managed through the purchase-to-pay system; nothing can slip through the net. We are becoming more efficient in running our division.”
“We are very pleased with what has been achieved to date, and I’m very optimistic about how the entire catering function is moving into the future at Queen Mary University of London,” concludes Graham.