Hamish Stoddart is co-founder of Peach Pubs, the multiple award winning pub business which has built its reputation on a combination of quality food and drink, a warm welcome and excellent standards of customer service. Peach opened its first pub, the Rose & Crown in Warwick, in 2002, the same year that Lynx Purchasing set up shop, and the two businesses have worked closely together since their earliest days. Peach now operates 17 pubs and has a turnover of £25m.
Q. How did you start working with Lynx Purchasing?
John Pinder and I had worked together at a wholesale business, Cearns & Brown, and we found ourselves setting up our respective new ventures at about the same time. The initial focus for us within Peach was establishing the operational standards that would set us apart from the competition, as it still is today. We didn’t have the time to check every price ourselves, and I wanted to make purchasing, in terms of both product quality and price, the responsibility of someone I could trust to look after our interests, freeing us to concentrate on the customer experience.
Q. Why did you want to use a purchasing specialist at the outset?
As a start-up business, and an unknown quantity as far as potential suppliers were concerned, we were vulnerable. I knew how much money I made out of small groups and independents when I was in wholesaling, as did John. They are a prime area for wholesalers to generate profit. I also knew how many hours it takes to buy well and maintain great relationships and prices. This really should not be the focus of small hospitality groups. We should all focus on our people and our guests almost all the time. As a gamekeeper-turned-poacher, John was in a strong position to negotiate with suppliers, and leave me free to do what I do best.
Q. Now that Peach is a larger, established and successful business, has the relationship with Lynx Purchasing changed?
It is fundamentally the same. We now have 17 pubs, but our approach and culture mean that we maintain a small business mentality. Our Peach Partners model means we work with entrepreneurial chefs and restaurateurs who have a share in their business and a genuine stake in its success. One of our challenges within that approach is maintaining robust purchasing disciplines. The nature of talented chefs is that they like to specify their own produce, such as cuts of meat, and to use their own suppliers. For the business as a whole, maintaining control of purchasing costs is essential. I also believe Lynx are even better than us at maintaining our Peach ethics, in terms of negotiating with suppliers whilst making us money.
Q. How do you work with Lynx to get the best prices?
There are basically two types of product that a business like ours uses. The first is the specialist food and drink that is unique to us. We will identify a particular quality of product that we want, and ask Lynx to identify a supplier who can meet our specification at the best price. If there is a particular supplier we know we’d like to work with, not only will Lynx negotiate with them on our behalf, but they will also benchmark their prices against similar products, so we know that we are paying a fair price. The other type of product is the ‘commodity’ items which every business needs, but where using a particular brand or supplier adds no value as far as the customer is concerned.
Q. Which products do you buy at prices negotiated by Lynx, and how much do you save?
We now buy all our food at prices negotiated by Lynx, as well as most other staple products such as cleaning and disposables. Working with Lynx, we have reduced the number of suppliers we use and now aim to form closer, longer-term partnerships. This enables us to work very closely with suppliers, both to manage costs and to ensure that quality is maintained. It also helps us plan ahead to meet changing consumer tastes and make effective use of seasonal produce, and overall this approach ensures that we are working with suppliers who share our values. We estimate that Lynx save us an average of at least 3 to 5 per cent over the very best prices we could negotiate ourselves, which adds up to a substantial sum over the course of a year.
Q. How closely do you work with Lynx?
Lynx director Rachel Dobson is part of the Peach team. From visiting a coastal fish market dawn to joining us on a conservancy project in Kenya as part of our Peach Foundation, she works as hard for us as anyone in the business. Rachel meets regularly with our chefs to update them on market trends, new products and menu planning, helping each business to manage margins and maintain profitability.
Lynx also proactively monitors the market for us at all times, flagging up pricing and supply issues, ensuring that we are getting the best value, and recommending alternative suppliers or products where appropriate.
Q. What advice would you give to a chef or restaurateur with concerns about working with a purchasing group?
Bear in mind, I was a supplier once, I know what happens with some purchasing groups, some suppliers. The most important thing is to appreciate that not all purchasing groups are the same. And that you must find one that can fit to your business, not vice versa.
The main concerns I hear from people who have had bad experience with a purchasing company are concerns about product quality, about being tied in to suppliers you don’t get on with, and losing the flexibility to buy from local or speciality suppliers. None of that applies with Lynx Purchasing.
There is no contract, no tie and no commitment to buy from any supplier, or to use products that we are not 100% happy with. If we do find a supplier we want to work with, either for just one of our pubs or right across the business, it’s highly likely that Lynx can negotiate a better price than we could. I wholly trust Lynx, and their method of charging for their services is not only fair, but the best way for a growing business to have its own purchasing manager.
Pictured: Peach co-founder Hamish Stoddart, Lynx Purchasing Director Rachel Dobson, and Peach Pubs chef director Corin Earland