Singapore hotel cuts suppliers to hike sustainability

Published on
July 27, 2018

Significantly cutting the number of seafood suppliers it buys from not only helped a major Singaporean hotel become more cost-efficient, it also aided sustainability efforts.

When the Grand Hyatt Singapore began transitioning its seafood procurement program towards sustainability several years ago, it partnered with the Marine Stewardship Council, the Aquaculture Stewardship Council, and the World Wildlife Fund.

Chef Lucas Glanville, director of culinary operations for Grand Hyatt Singapore and South East Asia, reviewed the massive hotel’s annual seafood purchases, and discovered that the property was buying 600 different seafood items. Many of the items were duplicates, such as the same product from five different suppliers at five different prices. 

After determining which seafood items met the hotel’s new criteria of ethical and sustainable sources where possible, Glanville and his chef team cut the list to fewer than 100 seafood items by removing unnecessary and redundant purchases. The entire process took around five years.

“It’s a lot easier to manage a hundred items than to manage 600 items,” said Glanville in a WWF case study. “A hundred items on a daily basis, a weekly basis, or a monthly basis I can manage. I can talk to suppliers, I can look at samples…I can see our product and talk to our chefs. That is scalable and manageable.” 

Grand Hyatt Singapore also cut its suppliers from around 50 to fewer than 20. “This allows for a higher consolidation of fewer products through fewer suppliers, providing opportunity to negotiate costs down. This also helps hotels increase business with suppliers that are able and willing to take this journey together,” WWF said. “Having a smaller number of suppliers facilitates improved communication with those select suppliers around the hotel’s sustainability definitions and can advance progress against goals.”

Current local suppliers include Grand Atlantic Fishery and Fassler Gourmet in Singapore, along with international suppliers such as Indoguna, Classic Fine Foods, and One Food Source. The hotel also buys directly from several fishermen.

“We are proud to be supporting many local fishermen on their journey to set up sustainable farms such as in Sumatra, Indonesia,” Chef Martin Satow, executive sous chef for Grand Hyatt Singapore, told SeafoodSource. Grand Hyatt Singapore was also chosen to be the first hotel to serve MSC-certified abalone in Southeast Asia.

Another move that helped the hotel slash costs was to obtain an importer’s license, which enabled the team to buy directly from sustainable and responsible producers in other countries.

“Our greatest benefit and payoff is having a seafood importer’s license, which allows us to purchase seafood in large quantities directly from the source. It not only saves us time, but we are also able to offer seafood at a much more reasonable price and can also educate the market,” Satow said. 

As the hotel develops strong relationships with select sustainable suppliers, the chefs and suppliers have developed innovative solutions to issues like product availability. 

For example, the hotel created a sustainable “Fish of the Day” program, replacing a fixed menu item with one that provided the flexibility to identify products that “meet sustainability, quality, volume, and price requirements on a daily or weekly basis,” the case study said.  The program often features underutilized seafood species, according to Satow.

“It gives the guest the best of the freshest fish that we can get, and it gives the chefs an opportunity to play around with the items,” Glanville said. “At the end of the day, it gives guests the best experience. It’s all about how you write your menus, how you talk to your suppliers. It’s about getting their buy-in, because we want to be here for the long term.”

Still, the hotel’s revamped sustainable seafood sourcing initiatives are not necessarily easy to manage.

“The biggest challenges are accountability and traceability of our vendors and distributors. Local distributors may not be as knowledgeable about products, such as accreditation or origins of their products, so we ended up talking directly to the fishermen and farmers,” Satow said. “In addition, there is the concern of possible expired certifications as follow-up of these certifications tends to be poorly managed. Wherever we can, we try to deal with the producers and fishermen directly to overcome these challenges.”

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