Avendra shifts focus to help industry through pandemic

Nine months into the pandemic, face masks, hand sanitizer, disinfecting and sanitizing wipes and sprays, safety signage and clear barriers remain in high demand from hoteliers. Photo credit: Getty / E+ / FatCamera (Hand Sanitizer)

As independent and branded hotels across the U.S. have implemented rigorous safety measures to keep guests and employees safe, getting the right equipment to follow these measures has become even more vital. Hospitality procurement services provider Avendra has been doing its part to help hotel owners, operators and suppliers through the COVID-19 crisis, making sure hotels have everything they need to maintain safety.  

During the first few weeks of the pandemic, the company shifted its focus in order to source products and build supply chains for new categories (such as face masks) and manage increased volumes in other areas (like hand sanitizer and sanitizer dispensers), said Chip McIntyre, SVP of strategic sourcing and procurement at Avendra. 

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“Personal protective equipment, sanitizing solutions and to-go products are now necessities for hoteliers,” he said. As the pandemic dragged on, the sourcing team worked with suppliers to provide product information for critical supplies. At the same time, the sourcing, customer care and marketing teams collaborated to communicate with customers, sharing the company’s own COVID-19 resource guide and reopening materials as needed. “Avendra also helped prioritize access to critical items to hotels that shifted to functional patient care spaces or those that provided housing for frontline workers,” McIntyre said. “This included assisting supplier partners to distribute donated products.”

Avendra’s role in the supply chain also includes ensuring the products are properly handled and delivered. “We make sure first that our clients’ inventory isn’t diverted to another customer, but also that products are handled safely in the warehouse and during different types of deliveries,” McIntyre said. “For instance, new delivery protocols may dictate that a pallet drop occurs on the back dock with no one interacting with the driver during the delivery. Or the driver could bring in the delivery with no contact with another person and take the product in [a] drop-in cooler, freezer or dry area. Avendra helps communicate and manage the expectations for suppliers and customers.”

New Normals

Nine months into the pandemic, face masks, hand sanitizer, disinfecting and sanitizing wipes and sprays, safety signage and clear barriers remain in high demand from hoteliers. “Now that the supply chain has adjusted, items that are needed in hotels should be in a good supply state for the most part, with some spot outages occasionally,” McIntyre said. “The hand sanitizer dispensers’ supply chain is still catching up due to worldwide demand. Disposable gloves have seen an increase in demand as businesses start to come back, so we have added supply to make sure our customers will have ample inventory as occupancy increases.”   

Today, he added, the company is still working to make sure the supply chain is supporting hoteliers’ needs. “This includes monitoring market conditions and product availability and providing updates on new category trends as well as sourcing all the personal protection equipment required to keep hotel staff and guests safe,” McIntyre said.

Looking Ahead

“While demand for traditional [food and beverage] is down dramatically, low-touch and no-touch products and packaging will be critical for the next several months,” according to McIntyre. Anticipating “a fair amount of innovation around this theme,” he added, Avendra is working with its suppliers to bring innovative products to its customers.

As the industry adjusts, McIntyre expects Avendra will continue to research and provide safety information to both its suppliers and customers, including guidance on supplier deliveries and service provider preparedness. “For instance, suppliers are required to have and maintain a COVID-19 plan as part of their daily operations,” he said. All service providers are expected to follow property guidelines and utilize enhanced personal protections as part of their services, and the company requires suppliers to have a plan for notifying customers of potential COVID-19-related exposure.

The next steps of the recovery period will focus on safe food-handling practices and cleanliness, McIntyre predicted: “Properties will need to modify their operations to adjust to new regulations, brand standards and guest concerns.” The important thing is that hoteliers assure guests that the property is both safe and comfortable. “To do that, more cleaning equipment and sanitizer is needed, and hotels have started to reimagine guestrooms,” McIntyre said. “For example, [hotels should remove] magazines and notepads because these items might be viewed as something additional in the room that could carry the virus. We expect amenity kit offerings will continue to include PPE items such as masks, disposable wipes and hand sanitizer. In this new normal and after the pandemic ends, the supply chain will continue to support these changing needs.” 

Connecting with Clients

The Avendra team has been maintaining contact with both suppliers and hotels through virtual online meetings as well as through traditional email and phone calls, McIntyre said. “We continue to work closely with suppliers and hoteliers to drive more efficiencies into the supply chain,” he added. “For instance, we now have multiple supply options for critical items (PPE, sanitizers, gloves) and will continue to focus on supply assurance for all the products and services hotels need.” 

Logic in Logistics

“During the early stages of the pandemic, we increased the frequency and cadence of our client communications but generally, because we have always focused on quality assurance and ways to help keep the supply chain safe, the logistics of our business have remained about the same,” McIntyre said. “We provided very detailed guidelines to our suppliers which cover everything from property delivery methods and employee health screenings to social distancing measures and vehicle sanitation.”