Ingrid van de Loo is F&B manager for Oceanwide Expeditions. The shipping company organises expedition cruises to the polar regions. Ingrid has been using Apicbase for a year now.
“I needed an efficient way to manage procurement and get a clear overview of the stock on each ship.”
The fleet is away for nearly six months at a time. Depending on the season, the boats sail south towards Argentina and Antarctica, or north in the direction of Norway, Greenland and Svalbard.
For a few weeks every year, the ships are at their home base, the port of Vlissingen in the Netherlands. In that short period, all maintenance works, and the entire supply of the ships has to be done. Getting the stocks on the boats in that small window of time requires hyper-efficiency.
“It is three weeks of absolute chaos,” Ingrid says. “Everything is happening at the same time. My email inbox explodes. I get a thousand questions from the crew about the deliveries and logistic.”
Follow-up of F&B in Excel is impossible for an operation that consists of three motor ships, two sailboats and a hotel crew of a 100 people strong.
“When I first started managing F&B, I lost an incredible amount of time going through spreadsheets and emails to keep track of orders, deliveries and inventory. Now there is clarity for everyone.”
- Accurate purchasing
- Cost Management
- Standardization of processes
- Single Source of Truth for F&B
- Real-time data per ship
- Data-collection: product usage & expenses
What are your biggest challenges as an F&B manager?
“Our company is growing. As a result, F&B management must be increasingly more efficient.
We used to have only two motor ships and one sailing ship. That was still manageable. You know what is purchased and what maintenance is going on. The new third ship is twice the size of the other two.
I noticed that I had to start organising procurement in an entirely different way. The new vessel operates differently than the smaller ones in many ways. And the fleet is continuing to grow. A fourth ship will sail out by the end of 2021.”
Can you describe the situation before using Apicbase?
“Everything was kept in Excel files. Before I was able to send out an order to a supplier, I had to puzzle the information together. All information – like stock status and previous orders – was sitting on in separate files or even emails. Going through those files was just too time-consuming.
To give an example, at some point, the wine supplier asked how much wine we sold on each ship the year before? I had no idea.
It took me an awfully long time to get to the bottom of this. That is when I thought there has to be a better way to do this. And then I found out about Apicbase.”
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What does Apicbase solve for you?
“All the essential data is now in one place. It is always up-to-date, and everyone has access to the same information.
It is a massive timesaver for everyone. If you need to know something, go and look in the system. It’s all there. There are no more discussions and no more excuses like ‘oh, I wasn’t aware of your new purchasing list’. Everything is in Apicbase.”
What does that look like in reality?
“I have organised it in such a way that there is one central library and each ship is a separate outlet. It contains orders, stock and the list of ingredients or products per ship.
Anyone can check at any time what is on board their ship.
I am not only talking about food and beverages by the way. The inventory of all other supplies, like the uniforms, for example, can be found in Apicbase as well. Instead of emailing me, the hotel manager simply has to take a quick look in the library to know how many new trousers and shirts for the crew are on board. That is very easy.”
What is the added value?
“It saves me an enormous amount of time. When the ships leave the harbour, I used to provide the crew with an inventory of everything on board: uniforms, food, drinks, cutlery… everything. It was a separate Excel file per supplier. The more the company grew, the more it became a cluttered affair.
We can now also handle personnel changes more gracefully. In the past, it was often the case that a few weeks after I had sent a list to one hotel manager, a new hotel manager took over. Of course, he or she didn’t have the time to search through old e-mails. Now they look in Apicbase and immediately find what they are looking for.”
Apicbase is the so-called 'Single Source of Truth for F&B'.
“Indeed it is. That is also necessary. There are so many channels for sharing information today: e-mail, chat, telephone, WhatsApp… I cannot rely on each channel to always contain the most recent data. There has to be a central environment, a single source of truth for F&B, where all vital information is available.”
Why is standardisation crucial for you?
“The company is expanding. More ships, more people. It makes managing operations all the more complex. Standardising the processes helps to scale more efficiently.
Processes must also be transferable. Now that things are getting bigger, we can no longer rely on one person to be on top of everything. Even if you are new to the company, you have to be able to pick things up quickly.
That is hard when the information you need is scattered all over the place, and procedures differ depending on the ship you are on. That is why standardisation is a must.
In the future, I also want to link menus with purchasing. I can do this easily in Apicbase. Today, the situation is as follows, I put all the ingredients on board, but the chefs have the creative freedom to develop their menus independently.
By streamlining the menus, registering the waste and usage and linking it to the stock levels, I want to be able to plan procurement more accurately.”
What inventory data do you need?
“I want to be able to estimate precisely how much stock each ship should have, not too little, but certainly not too much either. There is a financial benefit, but it is also essential for logistics. The space available on a ship is limited. Unused stock is an unnecessary cost and a waste of space.
That is why I want to centralise and streamline the menus in Apicbase. The chefs can still be creative, but I want to be able to measure the usage of each product with great accuracy, certainly for the more expensive products, such as meat and fish.
Today, we only register beverage sales on the ships. Meals are included in the price of a ticket. In the future, I also want to register the choice of meat, fish or vegetarian a passenger makes.
The more data I have, the better I can pinpoint procurement volumes. If I put 2000 kg of beef on board and I notice that the ships start ordering extra beef after five months, then I know quantities have to be updated.
It is knowledge like this that helps me keep the food cost low.
The purchase data also helps me to negotiate better conditions with the suppliers. I know exactly how much we order and where; what the usage is and what the costs are. That strengthens my position in negotiations.
Simply put, I prefer working with facts and exact numbers than on gut feeling. I can, of course, estimate how much wine we sell, but I like to know precisely. It is critical to have the right data per product and to be able to say: last year we sold so many litres, and this year I expect to sell this many litres.”
Has Apicbase influenced your way of working?
“Apicbase has helped me with three things: allowing me to make better use of my time, peace of mind and having control over F&B.
All things F&B is now in one place for everyone who needs it. I don’t waste time looking up stuff or having unnecessary discussions. I have a complete overview of orders and stock. There is transparency.”
Have you ever considered other software?
“Before Oceanwide Marine Services, I worked on a sailing yacht. There is no software for smaller boats like that. At least, not an affordable one. An officer on that ship had therefore developed a system himself. That is the first system I checked. It was too limited, especially for a company that is scaling, like ours.
At the time, I had no idea software like Apicbase existed. I was surprised by the power and possibilities of the system.”
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Which of the options that Apicbase has to offer surprised you?
“I had no idea that there was F&B management software that was as extensive as Apicbase. It surprised me how granular the system is.
From menus to recipes and the tracing of individual stock items per gram, everything is tracked automatically. Nutritional value calculation, allergens, comparing the performance of multiple outlets… I didn’t know such a thing was possible.
I am familiar with the F&B platforms that large cruise ships use, but they are super expensive. And it is an entirely different product. Apicbase is user-friendly and well… it is just very efficient.
I feared that our suppliers would have difficulties with receiving orders through Apicbase, but the opposite was true. The switch went without a single hitch. Everyone was immediately up and running.
I follow the stock for each ship and order directly from our suppliers from Apicbase. Thanks to the outlet management module of Apicbase, the suppliers deliver directly to the right ship.”
Who at Oceanwide Expeditions uses Apicbase?
“At the head office, it is the hotel operations manager and the F&B manager – my boss and me in other words. We use the system daily to draw up orders and keep track of stock. On the ships, it’s the hotel managers and the chefs. They take care of purchases while sailing. Twice a year we do a full stock count in Apicbase. The counting is done digitally, and each count automatically adjusts the stock in Apicbase.”
How did the implementation of Apicbase go?
“Very good, the support team helped me really well. You have to take some time to set the system up. The support team had warned me well in advance. At first, I thought I’d learn how the system works whenever I had five minutes to spare. That is a no-go (laughs). You have to sit down and take your time, but it’s more than worth the effort!”
Would you recommend Apicbase to F&B managers?
“Very much so, yes. Apicbase helps me to plan F&B purchases accurately.”
Images Oceanwide Expedition: Dietmar Denger
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