20 September 2016

Trevor Smith, National Food Manager at ALH Group, shares his experience in rolling out the Coupa spend management suite across 330 hotels.

Last month I had the pleasure of dropping into The Faculty’s Roundtable meeting in Melbourne to chat with the assembled CPOs about my experience in rolling out Coupa for my organisation.

I’m the National Food Manager for the Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group (ALH), which operates over 330 hotels and 500 retail liquor outlets throughout Australia, employing 16,000 people. ALH has a combined spend of over $100 million for food purchasing per annum across the hotels, or 1.8 million meals per year – that’s a lot of chicken schnitzels and eye fillets!

The training challenge

Part of the nature of hospitality is that we have a relatively high turnover of chefs – somewhere between 20% and 25% per year. This has led to a training challenge, requiring a continuous round of on-boarding, safety, compliance and systems training operating across our 330 hotels all year long. Therefore, for me, Coupa’s most attractive selling point was its ease of use and simplicity of training which allows us to quickly up-skill our new chefs and other system users without disrupting our business.

The system is very simple to use, which in my opinion is a key differentiator for Coupa in its competitive sector. The implementation process was also very fast – in our case, ALH signed off on Coupa just after Christmas last year, then we started implementing processes and workflows in February while sending out introductory communications to our supply base. From April we commenced barcode mapping and on-boarding suppliers into the system. We rolled out five pilot sites at the end of July, before starting our training regime in August. We trained 1300 people in 12 weeks with a training team of only six people. All 1300 are now live on the system, with very few hiccups along the way.        

We had the option of going with external training providers but chose to keep the training team in-house. I’d recommend this approach, as having trainers from within the organisation helped win over some of the staff who initially resisted changing the way they worked. Internal trainers have a genuine understanding of the challenges and time-pressures faced by our chefs and were able to develop some excellent relationships during the training program.

ALH developed a Learning Management System with tailored Coupa training that contains nine modules and takes no more than two hours to complete. The training covers everything a chef needs to use the system – ordering, receipting, problem-solving and more. We’ve also set up a three-person help desk to support the 330 sites.

We’re using Coupa for more than just its ease-of-use. The system will help ALH manage supplier consolidation, compliance, service levels, agreements and food service certifications. A big win was the automation of processes and invoicing, enabling us to remove 200 administration staff across the hotels. One administrator is now able to do the job previously done by three people.

Soon we’ll have amassed 12 months of valuable data through the Coupa system, and can set about extracting, measuring, cleansing and validating it. The next step for us will be to measure that data against the suppliers and manufacturers we have commercial terms with, then use that information to go out to tender via the Coupa system.  

Customers who come into our hotels demand excellent quality and good value. Our investment in Coupa will enable ALH to deliver this level of service and means we have the right system in place to scale up as the business continues to grow.

For more information about Coupa spend-management software, visit