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Procurement Professionals Detail Impact Of COVID On Luxury Sector During BITAC Panel

By Dennis Nessler | March 11, 2022

Longer lead times, increased difficulty getting product and staffing issues related to COVID are among the leading challenges potentially impacting properties, according to a pair of procurement professionals who spoke during a panel at BITAC Luxury Live 2022 earlier this week.

Taking place at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa in Bonita Springs, FL, the panel was entitled “Intuitive Innovation: How COVID Has Accelerated Change Within The Luxury Sector.” The discussion was moderated by Nick Bellini, chief sales & marketing officer, No Brick, LLC, who asked the panelists if the ongoing supply chain issues were prompting them to look more closely at domestic sourcing options?

Linda Gandel, vp, procurement, Bally’s Corporation—which now has some 14 casino hotel properties—acknowledged just that, but also noted her conversations with suppliers at the event was focused on what was currently available.

“One of my questions is what do you have in inventory? What do you have in domestic inventory,” she said.

Gandel further pointed out that seemingly local sourcing options can also present challenges.

“When we ask if it’s domestic made we get answers of ‘oh yes, it is made in America’ but then on the back end we find out well only 20% of what you have is really made in the U.S. and the rest is coming from everywhere else. I went to Canada to purchase some product and the COVID truckers were on strike at the border so we lost three weeks on that delivery. So for us we really need to understand where it’s coming from. It’s not just what the pricing is, but we really have to understand our logistics for projects,” she said.

Emille Aboona, co-founder/COO, Q&A Hospitality Services, Inc.—which offers turn-key new build and renovation, design, construction, purchasing and full-service installation services—further reinforced the urgency involved with obtaining product.

“If there is inventory, we’ll pay deposits immediately to secure it so it’s not gone.

That’s a somewhat risky proposition, but we have to do that so we don’t miss out on that inventory. You know the cost of the whole supply chain is through the roof. It’s costing more than the product itself to bring stuff in so we have to explore all options,” he noted.

Gandel agreed. “I met with someone yesterday and they made a great point saying ‘we may have inventory today, but you better lock it in because we won’t have it tomorrow.’ That’s the reality here.”

She later pointed out that it’s not just the delivery of FF&E product that’s being impacted, but also food and beverage items, and properties need to plan accordingly.

“The chefs should be looking at what’s the supply chain of food that’s available. I can’t go with a menu that has a lot of veal when there’s no veal to be had. Every day distributors are short shipping or not shipping product and not letting properties know that they’re not getting certain proteins or certain menu items. So what the chefs really need to be doing is changing the way they think about things. Look at what’s available in the market and create the menus to that spec because it’s a daily challenge for our F&B people right now and for the buyers,” she noted.

Meanwhile, Gandel was asked how Bally’s approached the well-chronicled labor shortages within all aspects of their properties.

“We really could only staff to business and staff to revenue, right? However, there are challenges with not having enough dealers. You can’t open pits if you don’t have the dealers and we have so many unions to deal with as well.

“You can only open as much of the hotel as you have staff to turn and same with the restaurants. Even after the social distancing was taken away we weren’t able to find servers to come in and serve all the tables. So why throw more tables in and make the restaurant look empty when you might as well keep it social distanced and have it look full? So it’s been challenging,” she noted.

Aboona was later asked to detail some of the positive changes that have resulted from COVID.

“It gave us an opportunity to look at our operation overall, how can we improve? How can we streamline things? As a result, we felt the need to upgrade our software. We’re doing that right now so we can have better output, better results, better information, and be more efficient. We looked at the responsibility of each individual and how we perform as a company. We looked at all of those things so we can have a greater impact,” he said.

Gandel, conversely, pointed out the cumulative impact of COVID on personnel.

“Let’s just say with fewer staff people are burnt out. This whole COVID thing has put more work on fewer people and it really is tough. For those of us who have worked through the pandemic every day it’s been absolutely exhausting,” she concluded.


Dennis Nessler

Dennis Nessler is Editor-in-Chief of Hotel Interactive, parent company of Hotel Community Forum. Nessler brings more than 28 years of editorial experience to his position, including some 17 years in the hospitality industry. As part of his duties, Nessler not only covers the industry editorially but moderates various high-level panel sessions at hospitality events and frequently conducts one-on-one interviews with C-level executives.

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