Photography by Margaret Mulligan

Foodbuy Canada, the procurement department for Compass Group Canada, may be the most recent recipient of the Hotelier Supplier of the Year Award, but the company has a long-standing reputation in the foodservice and support-procurement services industry. This year, Foodbuy Canada is celebrating its 10th year of doing business in Canada. The company has grown exponentially during that time, experiencing consistent year-over-year double-digit growth, including a 40-per-cent-plus increase in 2016 alone. Today, Foodbuy Canada is procurement partner to more than 5,000 hospitality operators (including 1,000 hotels); and contracts upwards of 30,000 products with more than 500 suppliers and service providers.

Its range of services include sourcing, category development, distribution management and analytics. In 2016, Foodbuy Canada managed more than $1 billion in member volume — a number that continues to grow each year, according to Jon Visser, national Business Development manager for Foodbuy Canada.

Its reach within the industry is significant — Foodbuy Canada’s partners include 50 per cent of the top-10 hotel-management companies, 45 per cent of the top-20 Canadian development/ownership firms and 70 per cent of the top-10 hotel brands in Canada. The company also boasts extensive relationships with industry associations, including the Alberta Hotel & Lodging Association, the B.C. Hotel Association and the Jubilee Hotel Association of Canada.

Recognized as a Top-50 Employer in Canada, Foodbuy Canada is also firmly committed to supporting the communities it services. In 2016, the company donated more than $350,000 to charitable projects, which include Food Banks Canada, We Care, Kids in Camp, Community Gardens and Junior Achievement Program, as well as client donations. Foodbuy Canada’s continued success lies in its commitment to bringing innovation and best practices to lower operating costs for hotel partners, says Christopher Delaney, senior director, Sales, Foodbuy Canada. A cornerstone of that commitment is the company’s open-book vision of supply-chain management that ensures quality standards are maintained from farm to fork. “We make it a priority to present our clients with detailed and completely transparent reporting so they can make more informed decisions.”

Its procurement model has been so successful, it’s now being adopted by Compass Group Canada as a best practice for its global operations. The model’s success is also reflected in the fact the company maintains an impressive 98-per-cent retention rate. “We must be doing something right to gain and retain that business,” Delaney says. “The reality is, we’ve put together a package of great people and systems to deliver great results to our partners.”

While Foodbuy Canada services several sectors, Delaney says hotels represent the largest — and the most economical — opportunity. “In today’s slower economy, a sustainable procurement program is essential in helping drive room rates. Everyone benefits if we can help operators keep food costs down and optimize procurement processes.”

One of many key competitive advantages for Foodbuy Canada is that it works with groups of all shapes and sizes — from independent properties to major chains — to provide economic value and sustainable procurement practices. There are no minimum-purchase requirements and customers can exit a contract (typically anywhere from a one to three-year term) on three-days’ notice.

Visser says this flexibility is a testament to the company’s commitment to its customers and the quality of its services. “As far as we’re concerned, the proof is in the pudding. We’re confident in anything we do, which is why we have such a strong retention rate.” Another component resonating strongly with customers is Foodbuy Canada’s rebate program, specifically designed to generate additional returns for customers. “The more they spend, the more we issue in rebates, so we not only keep their costs down, we increase their revenues,” Delaney explains.

Behind the scenes, Foodbuy Canada has been a champion of sustainable supply-chain practices throughout its supplier network. “We work closely with suppliers to understand their processes and how they fit with ours,” says Jennifer Trafford, VP of Foodbuy. “We’re very open in terms of what we expect from them.”

Team members continuously work with suppliers and organizations on a range of initiatives to address supply-chain sustainability based on four objectives: full traceability of products and suppliers, support for local sourcing, reducing the impact on the environment and supporting Fairtrade farmers and their communities.

Foodbuy Canada also promotes the ethical treatment of animals through partnerships with organizations such as the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) and Mercy for Animals. For example, Foodbuy’s parent company and Mercy for Animals announced a partnership that will transform the welfare of broiler chickens within Foodbuy Canada’s Canadian supply chain by 2024 — a first in the country. Also, all suppliers must adhere to the Five Freedoms concept proposed by the FAWC that uphold the ethical treatment of animals.

Egg products must meet the appropriate standards of health and safety, traceability, shelf life and animal welfare. Foodbuy Canada has also set a goal to convert 100 per cent of its shell- and liquid-egg purchases to cage-free by 2025. “These are minimum standards, which we expect from our suppliers across all markets,” Delaney says.

It has also established a sustainable seafood supply-chain initiative in partnership with the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program. In 2007, it partnered with local farmers as part of its “buy-local” initiative. Other policies range from eliminating the use of antibiotics and growth hormones in pork and poultry, to reducing the environmental impact of coffee production, in addition to aggressive recycling and package-reduction programs.

An increasing focus for Foodbuy Canada is technology innovation. Its MyOrders online-ordering system for example, provides a single point of contact for partners to streamline purchases and optimize savings and rebate revenues. “This system is the most comprehensive of its kind in Canada,” Delaney claims.

Advanced reporting tools allow members to view their orders down to individual SKUs, among other benefits. “Each customer knows what they have bought and spent by unit,” Delaney says. “If they have 30 hotels, we can break that out by each location to see which user is driving which rebate revenues.”

Over the years, Foodbuy Canada has also accumulated a significant amount of data across the entire supply chain, which it plans to put to good use for its partners, he adds. “We’re now starting to drive into more systematic metrics to develop better data analytics. This will further members’ ability to control costs and predict price increases.”

As Visser notes, “It all comes down to data analytics with transparency. Our clients make better strategic-purchasing decisions because they see tangible savings.” Foodbuy Canada has recently piloted a new proprietary web-based tool called Webtrition that will assist clients in areas such as menu management and nutrition, cost analysis and custom reporting.

Flexibility, technology innovation and the company’s rebate program were key factors behind Toronto-based Sunray Group’s decision to switch to Foodbuy Canada for its food-and-beverage procurement needs, says Sandeep Gupta, vice-president of Sunray Group. “Like any operator, we were sitting with representatives and negotiating pricing based on the assets we have. We were growing so much however, we found we were spending a bit too much.” While Sunray is relatively new to the Foodbuy Canada fold, Atlific Hotels has the distinction of being one of the first to sign up with the company 10 years ago. “Our business has grown; their business has grown,” says Robert T. Hood, corporate Food and Beverage manager for Atlific. “But what has not changed is their attitude,” adding there is a very tight bond between Foodbuy Canada and Atlific’s individual operations. More importantly, Foodbuy Canada has performed consistently for Atlific, Hood says. “They hold true to the service and expertise they profess to have.”

Written by Denise Deveau


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