With a two-generation, five-decade-long stewardship of the Savoy Park Hotel, near Ayr, the Henderson family are perhaps one of the longest-serving families in Scottish hospitality.
Run today by Roddie and Ann Marie – son and daughter-in-law of Campbell and Freda who, as non-hoteliers, bought the property in 1960 – the 15-bed establishment has become a mainstay of Ayrshire holidays, getaways, weekends and weddings.
Growing up in the business and joining it after graduating from university in the 1980s, Roddie has helped shape the hotel into one of the area’s best-known destinations, as well as overseeing many of the significant changes and upgrades that have made it such a competitive proposition in a saturated tourism market.
Among the most recent and, it has to be said, influential, of these changes has been the adoption of an automated all-in-one purchasing and invoicing system for both food and dry goods.
Developed by Pelican Procurement Services, Pi, – is an award winning, cloud based software package which has been transforming back office operations in hotels, restaurants, catering operations and other foodservice operators for the best part of the last three years.
By providing businesses with complete visibility and control over their purchasing spend (see sidebar), Pi helps procurement teams to view and analyse their budgets, buying trends, supplier invoices, credits and stock levels, in clear and concise detail.
It suits the Savoy Park’s requirements perfectly. With a diverse clientele including overseas visitors, regular guests from the domestic market, last-minute bookings and dozens of wedding parties, the self-styled home from home offers an engaging mix of the contemporary and traditional.
According to Roddie, the previous purchasing set-up was a fairly complex, time-consuming arrangement to administer, and the team had been looking at ways to simplify it for some time when a contact recommended Pelican Procurement: ‘It had become quite difficult to scrutinise every aspect of administrative commitments such as purchasing, without it being a daily grind,’ he explains.
‘One of the main attractions is Pi, which gathers invoices automatically, directly from suppliers and allows them – and us – to analyse and check every item we’re charged for.’
Given their wide, dynamic customer base, the Hendersons needed a system which could cope with the constantly evolving product ranges flowing into the hotel.
‘In the past, one of our biggest challenges had been finding the time to check product prices on invoices against the figures we’d agreed to pay our suppliers when we negotiated the contracts,’ he adds. ‘Because of the volumes of food, drink and dry goods coming into the hotel, often this could be hundreds of individual invoices we’d need to check. If we didn’t, we had no idea if we were being charged what we’d agreed.’
By enabling users to import invoice data directly from Pi into their accounts package, the software eliminates the need for time-consuming manual inputting, which in turn saves many hours in administration and ultimately improves accuracy.
‘Under the old system, our suppliers provided the data but this could be late, inaccurate or hard to understand quickly,’ continues Roddie.
‘With Pi, we can see what’s being purchased in real time across all our suppliers, and because our invoices are posted electronically, analysed by Pi and then uploaded onto our own accounts system, it eliminates the potential for mistakes to be made at our end.
‘We check our delivery notes in detail, of course, but if an invoice has a price discrepancy, it is highlighted by Pi automatically.- Pelican then arranges for the credit to be raised on our behalf – it’s so simple!’
And in allowing Savoy Park staff to focus on their core business activities, Pi saves the team from having to trawl through a pile of invoices each month: ‘No one has the time to do that here; we’re all too busy making sure our guests are attended to.’
However, according to Roddie, simplification and time-saving qualities aren’t the only advantages of using Pi: ‘Through Pelican, we’re also noticing more competitive supplier rates overall,’ he says. ‘The company does most of the negotiating for us through our suppliers’ HQs, which generally means bypassing the sales reps and presenting their employers with considerably less room for pricing manoeuvre.
‘It’s a very bright spotlight they’re under, so understandably we’re now receiving significantly better rates on volume supplies than we have in the past.
‘That said, we still work with most of our local suppliers ourselves – a few aren’t perhaps ready to move in that direction – but Pelican have been very supportive in that respect. They don’t put pressure on suppliers and are there to assist if needed; they know it depends on the individual company.’
Privately, Roddie admits he was initially unsure of Pi’s merits until Pelican’s Client Development Manager,Kevin Timoney, demonstrated its benefits: ‘Naturally it was quite a journey setting up all our suppliers on the system but that applies to any significant operational change,’ he confides.
‘Besides, it all happened very smoothly and it was eye-opening to see what Pi could do.
‘After years of manually inputting and analysing invoices, we finally had a programme which could do it for us. It’s definitely been worth it.’
And what of the other cost- and time-saving initiatives available through Pelican? Is he tempted to adopt other technologies to help his business operate more efficiently?
‘Further down the road, I think we’ll probably look at other aspects of Pelican’s Pi offering, such as [allergen and menu-costing tool] Piranha,’he concludes. ‘For now, though, we are delighted with the way Pi has transformed our purchasing and invoicing system, and we’re using the time we’re saving to concentrate on running our business.’
So, in addition to buying power, access to the best produce, price negotiation and the security of knowing a supply chain won’t dry up – even if a manufacturer or distributor goes to the wall -it would appear that Pi can provide one very particular perk which eludes most of us on a daily basis: more time.
With as many as one in ten supplier invoices proven to be inaccurate to some degree – whether because of manual errors, electronic blips or everyday price movements in the market – the need for scrutiny and diligence has never been greater.
Consequently, operators seeking to avoid paying too much for produce must either find more hours in the day to examine their paperwork in detail, or they can simply run the risk of trusting it will all be okay and deal with any issues as and when they arise.
Problem is, no one seems to have the time for either, these days.