By Rosanna Caira
TORONTO — It’s been a tough few years for the hotel supply chain as COVID-19 has created myriad logistical challenges, huge supply delays and rising prices. But after a two-year hiatus, the Avendra Canada Supplier Show re-surfaced on October 13 at Toronto’s Westin Harbour Castle Hotel, marking its 10th anniversary, bringing together more than 140 exhibitors featuring a range of new food, beverage and equipment products. For many of the more than 375 clients representing hoteliers, purchasing agents and operators who attended the tradeshow, it was the first time they’ve attended a tradeshow since the pandemic reared its head in 2020. As a result, they were eager to taste new food products, gauge equipment trends, and better understand supply-chain issues while also getting the opportunity to once again network.
It’s been more than 20 years since Avendra Canada first debuted on the Canadian landscape. The Rockville, Md.-based company was the brainchild of four organizations (Canadian-based Fairmont Hotels, Marriott Hotels & Resorts, Hyatt and Club Corp), which banded together to create a new kind of procurement model where operators ― both large and small ― could leverage their purchasing power. The company’s repertoire of products ranges from food, china, tableware and uniforms to engineering supplies, service contracts, landscaping, laundry and housekeeping.
Today, Avendra North America rings in more than $14 billion in annual purchases, while at the same time providing advisory services for its clients, while sharing purchasing data along the way. A total of 12,500 member properties are part of the Avendra network in North America, with more than 500 of those located in Canada. While the Avendra team is based in the U.S., in Canada it operates under the direction of Afsar Ali Khan, managing director, Customer Care Canada, who heads the Canadian office.
The show remains a top meeting place for operators looking for supplies and information. As Kevin Toth, president of Nova Scotia-based Fox Harb’r Resort, explains, “Fox Harb’r Resort decided to become an Avendra partner in 2019 to leverage the buying power the group has with its preferred suppliers. As an independent large resort, Avendra is the ideal conduit for us to engage with a wide variety of suppliers around the globe that can meet our quality and timeline requirements.”
Toth says the supply-chain issues spurred by the pandemic, “have been a huge source of frustration and disruption to both our resort operations and real-estate development program. Avendra has been very helpful in working with us to lessen the impacts of delayed shipments and provide streamlined solutions. Its FF&E program for our various renovation projects over the past couple years has also been beneficial, helping us meet both budget and timeline objectives.”
Others such as Don Cleary, president of Marriott Hotels of Canada, believes “Meeting with suppliers — all in one place — allows us the opportunity to have an in-depth understanding of the products we procure for our hotels. Each year, we are more and more impressed with the quality, sustainability, and tech-savvy products and services that are available through Avendra’s contracted suppliers. And the return this year to an in-person show post-COVID was especially valuable given the supply challenges that Avendra has been instrumental navigating for our industry.”
Mark Rodd, president of Rodd Hotels, a P.E.I. hotel company, recalls how impressed he was when he attended his first Avendra show in 2010. “Not knowing what to expect and having not attended a vendor show before I can easily say I was blown away. I was aware of the many brands and companies under the Avendra program, some of which we used in the past, but to have 150 to 160 of them under one roof with the most current products was a huge benefit to us. The time saved on research and seeing so many suppliers at one time has been a big plus for our company. I’ve been attending the show every year since 2010 and have built a great relationship with the suppliers that has extended beyond attending the show, with emails back and forth throughout the year about the latest products they may think suit our brand or technology improvements that we should look at.”
Many of this year’s exhibitors highlighted sustainability in their featured products. Some, such as global technology and service supplier, Meiko, showcased a new highly sophisticated product intended to reduce waste, while newcomers North Water, featured a new proudly Canadian bottled-water product sourced from the Canadian Rocky Mountains sold in a re-usable aluminum bottle. The company also boasted the fact that it’s a majority female-owned and operated company.
On the food side, plant-based cheeses were on display at several company exhibits while desserts, breakfast products and baked goods also received a lot of exposure. Bamford, a fruit and vegetable supplier in existence in Ontario since 1881, highlighted a line of gourmet-to-go sandwiches as a way to extend its brand’s reach. In many cases, labour-saving products were in full force as a way to reduce current labour challenges.
Though COVID has changed the world, Khan says there’s been continued interest in his company and membership is growing at a good clip, especially for independents who through membership get access to information and services they wouldn’t typically have. While membership in the group is free, participating companies need to make a minimum purchasing commitment annually.
While Avendra has become a valued part of the supply chain, Khan says the real secret to its success is the strong relationships it’s built with multiple stakeholders within the hotel community. “Avendra invests resources and expertise across the value chain. On the supplier side, we source and control the costs and supply chains of goods and materials from the fields, through production, into distribution and finally to the hotel with a large team of product experts. On the customer-facing side, we have a large group of experienced professionals that work closely with the hotels to optimize the Avendra program so that the products and services will surpass their customers’ expectations while being efficient to execute so that the hoteliers can focus on operating their hotels – and not have to worry about negotiating prices or running their supply chain.”