Roopali Khurana, MCIPS, M. Com, ICSA, lead procurement management consultant, trainer, assessor and coach at ArcBlue explains why F&B procurement is unique in the Middle East
How has F&B procurement developed in the Middle East since you first arrived here?
Many restaurants and small kiosks from all over the world have opened, and so demand for F&B raw material items has increased. However, the scale of supply has not developed at the same rate so many buyers are forced to source their raw food items internationally and this seems to have resulted in a tremendous increase in the selling price of these items. Also with the number of restaurants on the rise, competition among F&B-related companies has become tougher, which puts lot of pressure on the buyer and the end user to provide the best of the best.
What is the key change you have noted?
Over the last couple of years, many buyers have invested in developing local suppliers, which has helped them to enhance the quality of items as they are able to keep a closer eye on production. Reduced logistics costs have also allowed buyers to lower the selling price of food items. I have also seen the opening of new food chain stores, which is another great relief for F&B buyers in terms of costs.
How does this region compare to other markets in which you’ve worked?
The rate of restaurant and kiosk openings in the UK is not as high as in the Middle East. Due to the mixture of cultures living in the Middle East, there is a variety of food items and chefs tend to make exactly the same dish as they would make in their home town. However, it can be challenging for chefs to bring in raw food items and cook the same dish here in Dubai at an economical price. This isn’t quite as big a challenge in the UK since chefs generally cook as per availability in the market, unless the restaurant requires something specific from abroad.
What mistakes do young chefs make when it comes to procurement?
They need to be educated about the value the procurement department can add to their work. Early engagement with procurement staff can help them not only to save money, but to develop innovative ideas on how to provide value to the customers.
What is your number one piece of advice for chefs and procurement managers when it comes to sourcing the best F&B produce in this region?
Do good market intelligence and find out what is available in the market now and what can be developed in the future. This will add value to the company, and create a collaborative and transparent approach. It can also help to prioritise purchasing as per criticality and value to give a clearer picture to the team about how best to manage supply of particular items.
What are the key F&B procurement challenges associated with the Middle East?
Peculiar to F&B is less flexibility for the buyers to provide innovative and creative solutions as per the business need. I can understand why the end user is reluctant to offer too much flexibility to the buyer when it comes to specifications: the chef doesn’t want to take any risks with the dishes they are making. However, better results are achieved when both the buyer and the end user work together for the business need.
What is the next step in the evolution of the Middle East’s procurement landscape?
Dashboards and E- procurement. Some companies have them and some don’t, but these are great tools for telling you all about your categories, spend, suppliers, when the contract will finish, the region from where the item is sourced, KPIs, measurements, staff efficiency and more. It gives a great helicopter view to C-level management about the overall business spend and the efficiency of the staff.