Avendra President and CEO Wolfram Schaefer has been in the supply-chain industry for more than 20 years, beginning with McKinsey & Company, followed by LSG Sky Chefs Supply Chain Solutions, then with NCH Corporation and, for the past six years, with hospitality purchasing-services provider Avendra. His path to the company, however, provided valuable experience as it wound its way through related industries before reaching hotels.
“One of the reasons why people go into consulting is because you really don’t know much about which industry you really want to focus on,” Schaefer said. Starting his career at McKinsey, Schaefer found a home in what was called “transportation & tourism” at the time. Given that background, he later joined the management team at LSG Sky Chefs, a provider of airline catering and in-flight services.
When he worked with LSG, Schaefer was responsible for the Americas procurement team. “It was the first time that I was really involved in the food supply chain. Later, I became responsible also for the whole menu design group.”
Stepping away from tourism, Schaefer served as COO for NCH Corporation’s European division. The company manufactures and distributes maintenance chemicals and industrial parts to engineers and construction sites. There, Schaefer was responsible for the whole production, and had to make sure he got the right product to the right people at the right time to make sure machines kept working.
The education he received at LSG and NCH proved vital for Schaefer’s success at Avendra, a company he joined in 2010 as COO. He became president and CEO four years later. In those previous roles, he learned a key lesson for success in any industry: “It’s very important to be customer-centric and really responsive to the needs in the marketplace,” he said.
Hospitality and Hotels
Avendra’s value proposition to hoteliers—both for management companies and individual properties—is in how it removes costs from the $4-billion supply chain it manages to create value. More than 7,000 hotels buy from its contracted suppliers. “We have about 800 vendors representing a broad array of products and services—which includes virtually everything a hotel needs to run its daily operations and meet or exceed guests needs,” Schaefer said.
The company’s benefit for hotels is twofold, he said. “One part of is what we call ‘value-creation’—creating a best-in-class contract so that people can take advantage of them. The second part is the harder part. It’s actually what we call the ‘value-realization,’ which is telling people about those contracts and utilizing people, technology and information to make sure the individual who makes the procurement decision is making the right choice and goes to the right sources and actually utilizes our contracts.”
To that end, Avendra has former GMs and executive chefs on its staff to make sure the company finds the right solutions for its clients. “They can talk to the right people and have the language and understanding of the business so that they can identify the right solution for them,” he said. “An individual procurement person at a hotel may not have all the information they need to know about what’s happening in a specific industry, like shrimp or linens or light bulbs.
“Avendra has a lot of experts who look at their specific purchasing categories day in and day out,” Schaefer said. We can then help guide them in the right direction to help optimize their purchasing decisions.”