From the Board: Goodbye to Romance

Buying locally doesn’t mean you should pay more for the story behind the food.

Here at Atlific Hotels, we have a successful food distribution broadliner program with Foodbuy Canada that consistently helps us save money throughout our 60-plus properties. That program now includes local produce that can be delivered by the mainline distribution trucks, which is more efficient than buying direct from the farmer or producer.

Everyone loves the romantic ideal of buying directly from the source and telling the customer their vegetables came from Giuseppe’s roadside stand or were delivered by a donkey and cart from the farm to the hotel, but the reality is you’re probably overpaying to tell that story.

Let me explain. I love local produce, but I don’t like purchasing directly from the source because it can be messy, time-consuming, and a misuse of our labor since we’re not paying people to stand at the dock and go through every crate of produce that isn’t part of the agreed-upon quality standards we have with our broadline distributor.

A few years ago, I received an angry call from the owner of an apple orchard in the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. We have a resort there, and this person wanted to know why our property wasn’t buying his apples, especially since his family has been farming there for three generations.

I told him I’d investigate because we do buy from local producers through Foodbuy. I asked Foodbuy to run the SKU for apples purchased at the hotel, and they said we were already buying this person’s apples for the resort, and they were 50 cents cheaper per pound through Foodbuy than having them delivered directly from the orchard to the property.

I contacted the orchard owner and told him this, and he said he contracts a certain amount of his crops to a broker. That broker works with Foodbuy to supply the apples for our hotel. So we were buying his apples but doing it in a way that made better business sense for us.

I wanted to be a good neighbor, so I extended an olive branch to him and said if he could deliver the apples to our resort at the same price as Foodbuy, we’d buy directly from him.

He told me no.

So he was using the romantic notion of farm-direct delivery as a way to charge us more money, knowing that has cachet with today’s customers. As much as I love our local producers, I’d rather buy their products through a broadliner because it’s a lot less hassle and you get a sensible price locked in. You might not have a colorful story to tell the guest, but you’ll have a better bottom line.

Robert T. HoodRobert T. Hood
Member, Hotel F&B Corporate
Editorial Advisory Board, and
Corporate F&B Manager, Atlific Hotels