Purchasing Agent

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CAREER PROFILE
Duties: Purchases all food and controllable items    

Alternate Title(s): Purchasing Manager; Purveyor Manager

Salary Range: $10 an hour to $55,000 a year      

Employment Prospects: Good     

Advancement Prospects: Good     

Best Geographical Location(s): Anywhere there is a hotel, restaurant, casino, museum, or other business that purchases consumable and nonperishable items    

Prerequisites:    
Education and Training—High school diploma, but an associate or bachelor’s degree in business management or hospitality is desirable; courses in purchasing, negotiations, and computer spreadsheet programs are essential    
Experience—Work in a purchasing office, preferably in a hotel or similar business      
Special Skills and Personality Traits—Good interpersonal skills; computer literacy; organization skills; flexible     

Position Description       
Purchasing Agents can specialize in one area, such as restaurants, room furnishings, or office supplies, or they can be responsible for all items purchased by a hotel, resort, museum, cruise line, or other business, including food and beverage, equipment, tools, linens, and furniture (furniture, fixtures and equipment, or FF&E).     
A food and beverage agent purchases all food and controllable items; establishes procedures for purchase orders and inventory control; receives deliveries and approves the invoice; stocks, controls, and distributes the inventory; rotates the stock to ensure that all items are used on a first-in/ first-out basis; and maintains sanitation standards. He or she may be in charge of other employees and have to interview, train, and schedule their hours.     
The Purchasing Agent has to be able to communicate well with employees, guests, and vendors. He or she should be able to work in a fast-paced environment, pay great attention to details, and have good negotiating skills to help control costs while maintaining good relationships with the vendors. Some Purchasing Agents now use a central purchasing operation on the Internet, such as Avendra.com, open to all purchasers, or ChoiceBuy.com, open only to Choice Hotels International franchises but soon to be available to other buyers.    
Purchasing Agents must also develop a back-up plan in case items cannot be delivered on a timely basis. A prime requisite is knowledge of computer spreadsheet software programs. At times the Purchasing Agent works as the manager of the day or manager on duty (MOD), dealing with the hotel guests and resolving any problems that arise. Because deliveries come in all weather, and because perishable items must be refrigerated, the Agent can be exposed to inclement and frequently changing temperature and weather conditions. As the Agent may have to lift packages weighing as much as 50 pounds, there is some chance of injury.  There may be very little or extensive travel involved in this position. A Purchasing Agent may attend trade shows and visit suppliers or purveyors. A cruise line or cruise ship Purchasing Agent may be onboard and therefore travel extensively. The cruise line pays for the airfare from home to ship and back home.     

Salaries     
A Purchasing Agent may be paid on an hourly basis, receiving $10 to $13 an hour, or on an annual basis, receiving $55,000 or more, plus bonuses. Full-time employees usually receive health and life insurance and sick and vacation leave. Some may be offered investment and retirement income packages.     
Purchasing Agents working for hotels, resorts, cruise lines, and other travel-related industries usually receive free or reduced-cost travel accommodations.      
Relocations expenses are paid only in rare cases. Remote lodging facilities and cruise ships provide room and board.     

Employment Prospects    
Effective Purchasing Agents can save a property a good deal of money by wise buying, so there are usually plenty of positions available.     

Advancement Prospects      
Purchasing Agents can advance to overseeing a number of buyers or go into other management positions. Advancement opportunities are good for those who know how to negotiate well and control inventory properly.     

Education and Training      
A degree is not necessary but is helpful, particularly in marketing, purchasing, and management.     

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits     
Purchasing Agents should be flexible and able to react to emergencies and a fast-paced environment. They should be organized, have good interpersonal skills, and be extremely competent using computers and the Internet.    

Unions and Associations     
The International Society of Hospitality Purchasers provides efficiency, professional standards, etiquette, and educational information for Purchasing Agents.      

Tips for Entry      
1. Learn the purchasing business from the ground up, starting in a small purchasing office to learn the entire scope of the operation.       
2. Talk with Purchasing Agents, asking their advice about career choices, internships, and apprenticeship programs.      
3. Establish a network of people in the industry by attending local functions of the International Society of Hospitality Purchasers.     
4. Subscribe to trade publications or read about current trends and developments on-line.

 

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