38m eggs a year for Premier Inns

Case Study

30 September 2017

Category buyer for Whitbread

Emma looks after the total spend for dairy, fish and eggs for Premier Inn Hotels and Restaurants, getting them at the right price, the right time and place, and the right quantity. Her role is all about supplier management, and knowing the market inside and out.

How did you get into this job?

I did fashion buying at university then worked in retail buying in fashion – at Debenhams and M&S – for four years before moving across to work in food service.


What skills do you need?

An ability to negotiate, communicate and analyse. You need to be personable and manage and prioritise your workload effectively.


What’s an average day like?

It can include any of the following: a supplier/factory visit; meeting with the product development or technical team; managing a supplier or negotiating a contract with a

supplier; ensuring product is available; and managing cost inflation. Plus you get to go on some good trips to supplier factories.

Tell us a bit about your company

Whitbread is made up of Premier Inn Hotels, Restaurants and Costa, and we buy everything from eggs and steaks to fresh fruit and veg.


What is the most unusual thing you have bought?

I bought men’s novelty socks in my placement year in retail during university. They had embroidered slogans like ‘Oh no, not socks again’, or with Santa or turkey pics.


What is the worst thing you have bought?

Butter – because it has high inflationary pressures, and there isn’t much you can do to change the product make-up of butter.


What is the most interesting thing you have bought?

Fish is a really complex buying category, and it has been brilliant understanding the market, lead times and many different industry factors that influence price and availability. It’s so interesting to understand how and why seafood needs to be sustainable and responsibly sourced.

I visited some fish factories in China to learn how
it is processed, and understand the culture
within the industry there.

What advice would you give someone who wants to do your job?

Go in open-minded to buying different product and category areas. Try a few to find out what you love doing. You will come across all different types of personalities, but don’t shy away from putting your own stamp on things or suggesting new ways of working – sometimes it can be a game changer! Be prepared to work hard, it is not an easy ride, and you will definitely get out what you put in. I would definitely recommend buying/procurement as a career. I have learned so much and find each day different and interesting.


What are the salary and career prospects in this job?

You can start as an entry level trainee on around £18k, going right up to £100k for senior positions.

You can move up the career ladder as fast as you want to if you are prepared to work hard, put the effort in, and if the opportunities are available. I went from buying ladies’ footwear to buying eggs and fish, and absolutely love what I do.


Where next?

I want to learn more within my own categories and also other areas within procurement. I have just passed my first year in CIPS, the level 4 foundation and I am doing the level 5 advanced diploma. I want to progress to the next level in the next six months, and hopefully become a senior buyer in the next three to five years.

Interested in a career as a buyer? Here’s how to…