Kalahari Resorts' Randy Birchfield tackles customer-focused procurement

Photo credit: Kalahari Resorts

Hotels are major consumers of a wide variety of products, which makes the procurement process a potential pain point for all parties. But there are ways to improve the business, according to Randy Birchfield, corporate director of procurement at Kalahari Resorts, who said he's in the right place at the right time to make a difference.

Birchfield, a veteran buyer for multinational research firms and pharmaceutical companies who will be at this year’s HOTEC North America Operations Event, taking place June 10-13 at the Omni La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, Calif., stumbled on an opportunity to work for Great Wolf Resorts in 2015. After leading its procurement group for a year, he left that organization to join Kalahari Resorts in 2016, operating in a similar capacity. He was attracted to the hospitality industry for the same reasons he was attracted to procurement in the first place: the service mindset.

“I liked hospitality because, as a business, it’s very much parallel to procurement,” Birchfield said. “It’s all about the internal customer, and providing value to them. If the customer doesn’t perceive we are bringing solutions to the table, they will go around us!”

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Because he understands service, Birchfield said he has been looking out for ways to improve the procurement process for both buyers and sellers. He said this is an exciting time for procurement because sensibilities are shifting from being price-driven to chasing after quality.

“It’s less about the customer hammering on vendors and driving everything on price these days,” he said. “We are pushing the relational aspects of dealing with vendors. We want to make sure we establish those relationships to become a customer of choice rather than holding vendors responsible. We want vendors embedded with us.”

Kalahari Resorts is building a new property in Round Rock, Texas. Photo credit: Kalahari Resorts

Birchfield understands relationships. According to him, Kalahari is working to educate vendors on what the company is looking for, and is putting more effort into developing those relationships. This is key to hospitality, he said, because furniture, fixtures and equipment have become customized specifically to singular organizations, particularly in the resort market where Kalahari thrives.

“We have our own fabric shop, and we will design our own concepts for places like waterparks and hotel common areas, that way we get what we need,” Birchfield said.

Currently, Birchfield said Kalahari is at work standardizing amenities and services across its three properties and 2,617 guestrooms to create a consistent experience. In the meantime, the company is doubling the convention space at each of its properties to roughly 200,000 square feet at each location. Kalahari also recently began development on a new resort in Round Rock, Texas. The 1.5-million-square-foot property will have almost 1,000 guestrooms, multiple food-and-beverage outlets, an indoor theme park and both indoor and outdoor waterparks.

“It’s a huge venture, expected to open in 2020, and it’s consuming a lot of our efforts,” Birchfield said.

With this property in mind, Birchfield is looking forward to attending his first HOTEC event this June. He said he is most excited for one-on-one time with vendors to pick their brains for any solutions or services he has yet to hear of.

“I’m always looking for that next big opportunity,” Birchfield said. “I always keep an open mind. The one time you say ‘no’ to a sales rep, that’s the time they’ll have what you need!”