What's Coming in Your Back Door?

A lot of hotel owners worry about profits that escape through the back door. The concern, of course, is employee theft of everything from toilet paper to prime steaks. But many operators realize it's just as important to pay attention to what's coming in that same back door.

A service from procurement specialist Avendra can give hoteliers some piece of mind that the goods they receive are of the same quality, in the same quantities and at the same prices as they ordered. Avendra's Meet the Truck initiative is a service to customers in which company reps arrive before deliveries start (typically very early in the morning at full-service hotels) to review all aspects of orders from Avendra suppliers. The suppliers have no advance warning of the audits.

I was on hand on a cold wintry morning as the Avendra team performed its Meet the Truck audit at the Cleveland Marriott Hotel at Key Center. As the trucks rolled in shortly after five Avendra Quality Assurance Auditor Ben Hargrove sprang into action, reviewing each delivery to the 400-room downtown full-service hotel. He checked for proper weights, counts, temperatures and condition of all products, with an emphasis on fresh and frozen foodstuffs.

While one goal of the audit is make sure weights and counts are on target, a more important function is to maximize product safety, limiting chances for contamination and spoilage. At the Marriott, Hargrove did spot checks on dry items but thoroughly inspected and monitored temperatures of frozen foods.

“Meet the Truck is an example of Avendra's commitment to get our property the best products from our vendors,” says Executive Chef Chris Borsi. “It's also a refresher course for our purchasing staff to look at the products being sent to us and ensuring we accept only the best for our patrons.”

Hargrove spent most of the morning at the Marriott monitoring a half-dozen deliveries that ranged from general foodstuffs to fresh seafood, produce and beef. He crawled into the trucks as needed to review the condition and integrity of the trailers. He also consulted with members of the Marriott's receiving, storage and culinary staffs on proper procedures to make sure their practices comply with accepted safety standards.

Following the audit, Hargrove prepared a detailed analysis that includes both statistics from the procedure as well as narrative on ways the hotel can improve its receiving and storage practices. The Avendra sales rep reviews the findings with hotel leadership, including the general manager, and makes recommendations based on the report.

During 2005, Avendra performed more than 1,000 Meet the Truck audits at 337 customer locations, including hotels, golf clubs, airport concessions, cruise lines, restaurants and colleges. The service is free and is typically done at the suggestion of an operation's Avendra sales rep. The company also does more than 600 food safety audits at manufacturer and food distributor sites.

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