In the past, it is fair to say that many operators regarded their suppliers with some suspicion, almost as adversaries. Little loyalty was shown to the suppliers; consequently, the supplier was never certain about their future relationship with the company. Mistrust existed in many relationships and of course, often the purchasing or procurement department would see their role as screwing the best deal possible from a supplier.
It was Covid which acted as the catalyst for this change as it forced many to think differently to find answers, to need to work together far better as it became clear that good relationships were needed as it was only this which would allow for far stronger performance to be achieved. The conversation moved to becoming far more about an open narrative and working towards aligned objectives which in turn would achieve excellence.
Suddenly, a whole discussion around collaboration and partnerships grew but of course, this does require many to change their traditional approaches and outlook; this naturally takes time but there is a real move towards a stronger, more open relationship which seeks to share ideas, knowledge and solutions to achieve stronger profitable outcomes.
This is not a new narrative. Many have been advocates in previous times. The great Marc Verstringhe, founder of Catering & Allied, would often talk of the importance of strategic alliances which brought experts in their disciplines together to achieve excellence. Similarly, the Vested movement, developed out of the University of Tennessee, has long promoted the power of collaborative alignment in achieving stronger margin return, trust and relationships.
However, it has been Covid which has been the real catalyst for change and today, we are seeing many senior players talk more openly and want to see more transparency and partnership emerge.
However, of course, the challenge is to nurture a change in outlook. Tightly controlled service level agreements are being replaced by joint service agreements with free exchange of data and knowledge. However, the success of these agreements will depend on mutual trust, a highly developed commercial relationship and an efficient system of data exchange.
Some of the conversations that EP has more recently experienced have been around themes such as:
- “Following Covid, we know we do not possess all the answers and we need to work far better with our partners to find and drive better solutions.”
- “We believe we can work better with operators to help create new experiences and offers which can improve profit margin.”
- “The move of the B2C market towards a desire for stronger experiences is asking all to think more innovatively and stronger together.”
- “Operators of course will perform better if they feel there is a two-way conversation as it allows all to work in a more aligned fashion and share insights.”
- “There has been a growing mistrust in traditional sales and to get past this, there needs to be a different narrative.”
Of course, again, the challenge is to ensure that all are more open to partnership and understand what is involved.
This is far harder. Most believe this is a WIP which will take time to achieve; although there is an understanding of the journey which is needed to take place.
Starting now, EP will be promoting the importance of collaborative partnership and will be hosting a series of events to talk about the need for stronger strategic alliances across previously closed lines between sectors.
Things are changing and our aim is to promote this more and more so. We are working with a number of clients who are looking to have better partnerships and with suppliers who are being increasingly innovative. It is no longer just good words, but real actions are taking place.
Written by Chris Sheppardson, Founder of EP Business in Hospitality