A survey by the UK’s leading food service buying consultancy has revealed that the large majority of care homes feel they buy inefficiently – with a staggering 85% of the sector believing that they could buy at ‘better prices’.

The survey, conducted by Acquire Services Limited, which launched its specialist food service buying consultancy to the Care Home sector in February this year, reveals the pressing need for the industry to review their buying strategies, and put a stop to the costly and outdated buying methods which are still largely at play.

In addition, of the 85% who felt they could buy at better prices, 70% felt that if they had more time and resource they would be able to do this; revealing the growing need for care homes to take advantage of the ‘next generation’ buying processes which are already evident in personal online shopping.  These free-up valuable time which can be re-invested in delivering front line services and realising economies in the management of the buying process from order to payment.

Ed Bevan of Acquire says: “We knew there was a gap in the Care Home sector for a more efficient and effective buying method – hence why we have extended our successful foodservice consultancy into new channels.  What did surprise us though was quite how many care homes are clearly feeling unhappy with their current buying strategies and recognise the money they could save by reviewing their buying measures.  And it’s not always about price – it’s often about ‘buying better’ whether more sustainably or more effectively within the product mix.”

With many care homes still to catch up with the world of e-buying, Acquire is committed to revolutionising the way homes buy and help them reap the benefits of new technologies to help them gain the benefits of using simple online systems to transform their food service operational value.  Acquire’s web-based approach to buying food related products takes into account the unique challenges faced by the Care Home market, something not many of the ‘traditional’ buying groups do.

Bevan continues: “Caterers – whether they are in-house or contract – generally want to ‘buy better’.  This isn’t just about price – although this is important.  It’s about care homes working with a buying partner who truly understands their buying dilemmas and works on their behalf to connect them with the right suppliers, providing an appropriate breadth of product choice – and meeting their individual criteria of locality, sustainable footprints and good supply chain management.

There are numerous other benefits that can be gained from buying via an online portal.  For example:

  • Keeping control of pricing is easy as any price increases would need to be approved before the system updates, effectively eradicating suppliers from overcharging.
  • The data in the system will also allow care homes to report on what they have bought from which supplier over a given period and helps control the product lists that the care settings see so that any maverick spend can be controlled.
  • Budgets can be monitored in real time and approval for non-budgeted expenditure can be managed via a single system.
  • Recipes can be costed and day rates managed through the system’s ability to dynamically re-cost menu items as the prices on the system change.
  • All products can be purchased – from food, lighting goods, cleaning chemicals, uniforms and medical supplies – all from one single login.

“We understand the wider marketplace and enable our clients to get the most from their supply chain through providing a wide supplier choice together with very compelling and stable pricing,” says Bevan.  “This level of insight just couldn’t be achieved by manually researching individual suppliers and continually tracking their pricing positions.

“We hope our survey is a wake-up call to the sector, to seriously look at their current procurement method, and consider other options.  All it takes is a phone call to us, and we can look at the best solutions.”

Some clients have been working with Acquire managed supply chains for over 10 years.  Maintaining service level agreements, carrying out third party safety audits and continually assessing suppliers’ credentials including due diligence processes and emergency contingency plans is all part of the company’s role.