Left to right: Afsar Khan, director, Field Support & Customer Relations, Central and Eastern Canada, Avendra and Wolfram Schaefer, president and CEO of Avendra

MONTREAL ─ With the newly renovated Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth Hotel serving as the backdrop, Avendra held its seventh-annual tradeshow in Montreal in late July.

The one-day vendors’ marketplace attracted 300 hotel executives from across Quebec and Ontario who came to sample new food items and learn about the variety of products — ranging from linens to large equipment pieces — distributed by the Rockville, Md.-based procurement company, which was started in 2001 through the cooperative efforts of Marriott, Fairmont and Hyatt as a way to aggregate and leverage the purchasing volume of its customers while creating a strong purchasing power.

The supplier show, which was launched seven years ago, rotates annually between Toronto and Montreal bringing member properties together with the suppliers they purchase from. According to Afsar Khan, director, Field Support & Customer Relations Central & Eastern Canada, “Customers don’t have that much time, so this tradeshow allows them to come out for five or six hours and see so many vendors and network with them later on.” While no actual purchasing takes place at the show, hotel executives — representing GMs, executive housekeepers and F&B managers — get a chance to see what’s new, gain product knowledge and talk to their suppliers, all under one roof. The show also provides operators and suppliers with a social component through a private cocktail reception and dinner held the night before, as well as at a breakfast the morning of the show, where several food suppliers have an opportunity to sample their new products as part of the meal. This year, for example, True North, was able to feature its candied salmon as part of the breakfast offerings.

Though Avendra’s headquarters are based in the U.S., the one-day supplier show promotes local product as much as possible. “My goal is to promote local,” says Khan, who adds that 90 per cent of the products highlighted at the show are from Canada; 30 per cent of the customers at this year’s show travelled from Ontario with the remainder coming from the Quebec market.

According to Wolfram Schaefer, president and CEO of Avendra, who travelled to Montreal for the supplier showcase, “It is relevant for the Canadian market to have Canadian products; people want local suppliers — it’s just the right thing to do.”

Demand for the supplier show continues to grow; this year there was a wait list of 10 suppliers who wanted to take part in the show but couldn’t due to limited space. “And, already next year, says Khan, “we’re not sure we can get more space at the Royal York in Toronto to accommodate the demand.”

For operators, the value of the show is that it represents a one-stop venue to see what’s new and speak directly to suppliers. According to Umash Srivastava, GM of the Doubletree Hilton in Toronto, “Price, availability and more than anything reliability of product” are the reasons he’s happy to be part of the Avendra procurement process, adding that dealing with Avendra gives him peace of mind. “If we have a problem, for example, with one of our food products, like chicken, we are able to know exactly where that product came from.”

For Nick Vesley, GM of the Cambridge Suites in Toronto, the association with Avendra helps his company save money. With a total of five hotels in his company’s portfolio, he’s able to leverage the buying power of larger companies.

While the perception may exist that many of the operators purchase big-ticket items through Avendra, according to Schaefer, “Sixty per cent of our procurement volume is in food-and-beverage,” although, he’s quick to point out that “It’s a little misleading to some degree because when we say food-and-beverage, it also includes items like pots and pans, foil paper — items you don’t eat but are food related.”

For suppliers, part of what makes the show so popular is the low cost to exhibit and accessibility to the decision makers. “We charge only $300 for a booth, plus a raffle gift worth $250 minimum,” says Khan, explaining that each attendee to the show walks away with a prize. Attendees also have a chance to win seven mega prizes if they get their “passports” signed by all show exhibitors and sponsors. “Some other tradeshows charge exhibitors around $25,000 for a booth and they only get students, or people who want to collect samples but, here, we get the decision makers — general managers, executive housekeepers, F&B managers, chief engineers, department heads — that’s why our suppliers like it.”

For sponsors and exhibitors such as Chef Works, the one-day show is the perfect opportunity to introduce its customers to a wide range of products that includes chefs’ uniforms, knives and a slew of other products. In fact, at a cocktail reception held the evening before the show, Jeff Berman, president of Chef Works Canada, told guests the company is set to introduce a total of 240 new products this year, many of which were highlighted at this year’s supplier show. Next year’s Avendra show takes place at Toronto’s Faimont Royal York Hotel.


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