The Purchasing Function in the F&B Industry.
By École Hôtelière de Lausanne
Thursday, 21st February 2013
The goal of this research was to anticipate which activities and skills will characterise the purchasing function in European restaurants in 2025.

More precisely, it not only investigated the way the evolution of this function is envisaged by F&B buyers and restaurant managers themselves, but also confronted it to the opinions of academic experts.

We used qualitative and quantitative methodologies to study six European countries: France, Poland, the UK, Germany, Sweden and Spain. This allowed us to examine the differences, similarities and singularities in the perceptions of restaurateurs from these various areas and cultures.

Several factors will induce changes in the way restaurants, and more specifically the purchasing process and function, are
organised. They belong to four domains:

1. In terms of agro-economy, agricultural production will have changed: competition with less developed countries will require specialising in products that are high quality, safe and environment-friendly.

Producers will have to be educated, flexible, entrepreneurial and aware of new technologies. Large producers and farms managers will benefit from this evolution the most, while small and local producers will be integrated into larger agro-businesses or cooperatives.

2. Urban factors will include the regulation of transportation of goods and people within cities, the installation of logistics platforms at city entrances to streamline the distribution of goods and control their sanitary quality, a new organisation of deliveries (by district and by type of product), and an increase in tourism due to the expansion of the middle class.

3. The field of technology will not go through any scientific breakthrough. On the other hand, technological innovations linked to nanotechnologies and the increased connectivity between individuals will have profoundly changed everyday behaviours, including food consumption.

Other technologies and tools which will affect restaurants and food consumption practices are geolocation, augmented reality, holography and robotics.

4. Consumers will face two major problems: a tight budget and lack of time. Convenience and food on-the-go will therefore be strong market drivers. Consumers will also be more aware of personal and societal needs and more demanding and knowledgeable about the multitude of services offered to them.

Restaurant selection will be facilitated, even managed, by smartphones and virtual experiences. Restaurants will have to provide both goods and social connections to face the increase in micro-social groups of consumers.

We identified three types of restaurants for 2025:

1. Latecomers that have neither improved their practices nor adapted to the use of IT or to sustainable development practices will still have opportunities to survive. It will be thanks to their location, to their willingness and capacity to adapt to delivery constraints, to extended hours of service or to relationships with suppliers of high quality products, for instance. Some will exploit a niche market by going back to past habits and practices, much to the delight of people who are nostalgic or tired of the omnipresence of technologies and IT, for example.

2. Green restaurants will attract consumers interested in environment or nutrition through dedicated concepts, menus or even personalised diets. It will be easier for this kind of restaurant to customise their offer, as long-term relationships will be implemented with suppliers. These relationships will include co-development of products and a high level of trust. Customers will also have great expectations in terms of corporate social responsibility and sustainable development. Managers and purchasers in these restaurants will be demanding when it comes to training (management, nutrition, IT…).

3. Geeky restaurants will demonstrate proficiency in IT or sustainable processes and be run by professional managers. It will be easier for these managers to implement procedures which help forecast needs, costs and spending evolution or scan the supplier market to find opportunities to increase revenues and profits. New technologies will be used to improve the customers' experience, but will also be a crucial part of the managers' relationship with their suppliers (who will have implemented it). The managers will expect sustainable practices from their suppliers as well. Managers and purchasers in such restaurants will be demanding when it comes to training (management, nutrition, IT…).

Along with the results we obtained, the changes anticipated by the experts and professionals we interviewed allowed us to identify the skills and activities which the purchasing function will require in 2025.

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