I have always found that February and March are thought of as foodie months in this region, especially in the UAE. From the all-encompassing Dubai Food Festival, which includes the newly launched Dubai Restaurant Week, along with Gulfood 2016 and Taste of Dubai... the whole country gets caught up in food exploration.

It’s why the February issue of Hotelier Middle East is what I’d consider the F&B special. While it’s easy to think about chefs, managers or hotel operators when it comes to the lucrative restaurant business, the supply chain and the procurement teams of hotels don’t often get much recognition in the business of food.

I’ve heard many times, at previous Caterer Middle East conferences and the Hotelier Middle East Procurement Summit, that the relationship between the F&B and procurement departments can be uneasy. Chefs claim that purchasing managers don’t understand their needs, while procurement professionals feel they are disliked!

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However, at the end of the day, running a hotel is a business, as Four Seasons’ Gianluca Sparacino pointed out in the F&B roundtable this month [see pages 24-30]. The bottom line is all important.

So can procurement managers be blamed if all they are trying to do is adhere to producing figures acceptable to operators and owners?

Equally, the profits that come into the hotel through a restaurant would not exist if its products don’t stand the test of tough scrutiny from an increasingly knowledgeable customer base.

It’s the classic case of the chicken and the egg... What came first? Profits that allow spending on products, or the products that help enhance profits?

Also in the F&B roundtable, Hilton Worldwide’s Marc Gicquel pointed out that there was a lot of work to be done with the supply chain to enable the hotels to do more with their product.

It’s not just ingredients though. We’re also talking about design and accessories in restaurants. Marriott International and Ritz-Carlton’s Adam Van Den Bussche said that cost engineering is one of the bigger problems faced by hoteliers and restaurateurs. He said: “The design starts out fantastic, and at some point it gets cost engineered and turns into McDonald’s. Somehow you have to argue the case to maintain the investment level.”

And we come back to money. The procurement team has a budget to work towards — but do they have empowerment? We genuinely believe that if procurement professionals, as pointed out at our Procurement Summit, were empowered, they could work in a more integrated manner with F&B to create something special.

A firm view is taken by Palazzo Versace, whose hotel manager Patrick Robineau can’t praise his procurement manager enough [see pages 46-49]. Saying the Enigma restaurant would not be possible without the purchasing team, Robineau was keen to assert that department’s importance in executing the project.

After all, if the Palazzo Versace could get suppliers to agree to unusual terms — renting items in the short-term, for example — then perhaps the key really is in freedom to take decisions.

On that note, I would like to invite procurement professionals working in hospitality companies to fill out a survey Hotelier Middle East is conducting, which will form the basis of research on the purchasing strategies and challenges of this region’s hotel operators. To participate, simply click here.

The results will help form the backbone of the forthcoming Hotelier Middle East Procurement Report, due to be published in Q1 2016.

The region’s hospitality industry has matured from a decade or two ago — and it’s time the purchasing department emerged into these new, exciting times as well.

Inflexible bureaucracy needs to go, there isn’t any space for it anymore. Not if we expect to grow.