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4 ways technology can enhance food and beverage buying

Food and beverage buyers have a lot on their plate. From menu planning for an increasingly adventurous consumer plate, to handling more and more last-minute bookings, enabled by platforms such as OpenTable. And with consumers becoming savvier, expecting better service and quality but without wanting to pay more, the pressure is on for buyers and chefs to try and meet these rising demands.

As chefs try to meet growing consumer expectations, sourcing the wider range of ingredients and products they need quickly, reliably and at the best price, they face the challenge of their internal buying processes. For most, the process of food and beverage buying hasn’t really changed since the advent of email, adding to the phone and fax as ways to get those orders placed. It’s time-consuming, inefficient and lacks the spend visibility and control that catering and hospitality businesses want to see.

This is where modern technology can help. Here are 4 ways modern purchasing systems can enhance the food and beverage buying experience, helping address the ordering needs of time-poor chefs and buyers, whilst lifting the lid on spend activities to central purchasing and finance teams too.

1. More reliable, more visible ordering

Ordering via phone, email or fax is prone to error, doesn’t provide certainty of receipt, and lacks anything by way of order tracking. But, with food and beverage purchasing software any type of ingredients or products needed can be ordered in a familiar online catalog-style environment.

Users can search for items at pre-approved prices, add them to their basket, and raise an order, following any internal approvals required. The order will then be sent electronically to the supplier who is required to acknowledge receipt through the system.

In-built features such as real-time availability of stock levels and designated fast-moving lines, mean chefs and buyers won’t need to worry about running out of essential items, and every supplier can be added to the catalog, even the occasional ones, ensuring all spend goes through the system. This means spend data (what, with who and how much) can be captured, and an audit trail of all purchasing activity is created.

2. Faster menu planning

With the Christmas season out of the way, there’s little time to take stock, with the next dates in the culinary calendar never far around the corner. Next stop, Valentine’s Day! Using menu planning tools, such as StarChef, buyers can speed up the planning process for new menus and work out how to deliver the planned menu within budget.

Food and beverage ordering software can integrate with any chosen menu planning systems, calculating ingredient quantities for chosen dishes and pulling through the items into the purchasing system’s shopping basket, generating instant costings, saving time and effort all round.

3. Capture overpayments

For ingredients that don’t have a set single unit price (fresh poultry, meat, fish etc.) there’s always a danger of paying more than should when what’s promised is not delivered. Purchasing technology can now offer a ‘catch-weight’ ordering feature, allowing the buyer to specify the weight of any item they would like to order at an agreed per unit of weight price (per 100g, per kilo etc.).

Once any order is delivered the weight of the delivered item is compared with the original order value, and any overcharging from an underweight delivery can be used to negotiate rebates or credit notes from the supplier. Full auditing and online tracking of the weight variances cuts down on administrative time too.

4. Connect with a supply chain network

Suppliers are essential to the day-to-day operations of any commercial kitchen, with catering and hospitality businesses heavily reliant on fast, reliable order delivery to help keep their kitchens running smoothly. But chances are if your outlets are still placing orders as they always have done, you’re probably not getting a complete picture of which suppliers you could be trading with.

Tapping into a supplier network gives you access to a range of suppliers in all sorts of food and beverage categories, giving you potential new partners who could add real value to your offering with new produce, or provide what you currently need at a lower cost. Purchasing systems for catering and hospitality businesses should be offering this ready-made supply chain network. Through a simple connection between your back-office systems and the ordering software, you could automate trade with all sorts of leading food and beverage suppliers, saving you time, and giving you access to a wider choice of products and price points.

At Medius we’ve spent over 17 years working with a range of customers in the hospitality and catering industry. Our Medius Spend Management software powers flexible and reliable food and beverage buying for thousands of local client outlets and sites, whilst introducing new levels of operational cost control and centralized spend visibility.

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