Manchester Metropolitan University (Manchester Met) is one of the largest Universities in the UK, with a population of over 38,000 students and 4,500 staff.
We spoke with Ben Collier, Head of Catering, Retail and Hospitality of Manchester Met, to understand more about the requirements of managing the food provision for this customer base as well as visitors and conference guests, throughout the academic year.
“As Head of Catering, Retail, and Hospitality, I oversee 13 outlets across the campus, which range from a large food court serving upward of 3,000 meals per day, to bars, restaurants, pop-ups and cafes. There’s an extensive food and beverage requirement across Manchester Met and it takes a great deal of management to get it right.”
Implementing Pitstop, a stock control system
When managing such an extensive array of outlets, keeping track of stock has been an ongoing challenge for the catering team. “Our previous stock system was limited, and I didn’t feel we were achieving value for money or receiving ongoing support or guidance; with food prices changing so quickly, procurement can become a full-time job in itself. Having met Pelican to discuss this, I was impressed not only by the stock control system, Pitstop, but I liked its commitment of ongoing support.”
Pitstop is one of the modules of Pelican’s award-winning platform, Pi. The cloud-based system offers a suite of purpose-built modules that are designed to empower finance, procurement and catering teams to work smarter and more efficiently. It not only enables consolidated ordering and stock control, but also:
- Records supplier deliveries
- Provides invoice management
- Supports menu development and allergen requirements
- Provides complete transparency of budgets
Continues Ben: “Having implemented Pitstop and now worked with Pelican for the last two years, I am impressed with their industry knowledge and the fact they operate as your ‘eyes and ears’ to the market – evaluating suppliers, products and prices on your behalf, on an ongoing basis. I really appreciate their Pi technology platform. Another great benefit about Pelican is that their Pi system (including the stock system) is available free of charge and is really easy to use.”
Procurement improvements increased savings
While being free is beneficial, Ben noted that having assistance with the overall procurement work was his end-goal when Pitstop was being evaluated for use. As he explains, “I could see that long-term we would benefit from Pelican’s experience in keeping our costs steady, or better still, even making financial savings along the way.”
Once we had adopted Pelican, a tender process was initiated by Pelican with Manchester Met’s core food and beverage suppliers, working through key lines to identify financial savings, while ensuring contracts were updated to make sure agreed service levels suited the ongoing needs of the university.
“During the pandemic, we made a decision to review suppliers; trading was slow due to students and staff working and learning remotely and the time was right to do this,” says Ben. “We initiated a tender for our coffee first, and then the food categories followed.
“While some suppliers remained the same, several new suppliers were brought on board as a result of the competitive tender process managed by Pelican. Importantly, we did see improved prices in most categories, which was great, plus improved contracts and the assurance of knowing that Pelican is now by our side checking prices on an ongoing basis, in the background.”
Pi system provides valuable insights
The Pi system is being used daily to support Manchester Met’s catering function, as Ben describes: “I can track what we’re spending on each site, compare against income, track wastage, stock holding, stock analysis and ask myself, ‘are we over-spending, do we have enough stock’; I simply didn’t have that level of visibility before. It’s so much easier in the online portal, placing and tracking orders. The level of reporting I have now is excellent. For example, I’m currently reviewing our pricing strategy for presentation to the University leadership team for approval. The Pi system gives me the insights to qualify what I’m doing – I can justify the reasoning based on the data.”
In addition to the direct financial savings Manchester Met has witnessed, Ben confirms there have also been indirect efficiencies.
“Invoice management has made a massive difference to us; instead of hundreds of supplier invoices, we now have one each month from Pelican. As such, we’ve been able to reduce administrative support to the equivalent of two admin posts. This is a saving of around £60K a year in staff wages alone.”
Ongoing support from the Pelican team
The team at Pelican continues to support Manchester Met by assessing its needs, managing suppliers, monitoring product availability and pricing, and delivering insights. Work on refining stock taking continues, with Pelican supporting Manchester Met’s chefs with data entry, however when reflecting on the partnership, Ben summarises the main benefits to the university as he sees it:
“We have gone through Brexit, the pandemic, and now the uncertainty driven by the conflict in Ukraine, yet I feel we are in a better position now because of Pelican. The reason for this is that we have a team of people specifically negotiating on our behalf. They monitor the total market, our pre-approved product lists and work with our suppliers to pre-empt changes. And, if I have any questions or concerns, I know they will advise me. We also get regular insight reports, which are very detailed, current and include specifics to the product lines that we’re purchasing, which is very useful.”
“The finance department has made efficiency savings – they now only have to account for one invoice from Pelican per month, and not multiples. For time-pressured teams, this on its own makes such a big difference.”
“For me personally, the ability to find alternative suppliers, with Pelican advocating on our behalf with price increases, is a fantastic element of what Pelican deliver. They let us know in advance of what’s happening in the market by sharing useful information. The account management is very professional with regular meetings; if you ask a question, they will always respond – they are on the ball.”
Concludes Ben: “Ultimately, we are saving a huge chunk of time, while managing our supply chain and prices. I’ve got better, quicker insight into our stock and procurement system than ever before and can find things out myself without having to ask others first. I can control our spend and cost of sales – which I doubt many others operating in the catering field in today’s uncertain climate can have total confidence in saying. Pelican gives you this confidence.”
We are here to help
Pelican proudly supports education operators by providing innovative solutions to enhance their operations, increase efficiencies, and reduce costs and their carbon footprint. Please contact us for any support you need, or to book a Pi demo, on 01252 705214 or firstname.lastname@example.org.