Hotel & Restaurant Times met with Bunzl Rafferty Guest Amenities General Manager Lorraine Goodman; Head of Sales UK & Ireland Brendan Fleming; and Sales Coordinator Team Leaders Emma Kinsella and Tanya Barr to learn about the hospitality suppliers’ journey and unique approach
The importance of hospitality amenities should never be underestimated. For guests, they’re crucial in making a hotel feel like a home away from home, offering comfort, for example in the form of duvets, robes and pillows; and solutions, like in-room fridges and safes. For hotel owners, they can be used strategically to set the tone of a property and reflect its price point. Bunzl Rafferty Guest Amenities, based in Co. Armagh, is a leader in the space and has made the procurement and supply of hospitality amenities an art form. The Irish company works with a wide range of property types, from five-star hotels to guest houses to serviced accommodation, to determine and supply each property’s specific needs.
Bunzl Rafferty Guest Amenities started as Rafferty’s Hospitality before being taken over in 2007 by Bunzl plc, and in recent years the company has been through many exciting changes.
“The IT infrastructure was overhauled, we relocated, there have been a lot of changes across the teams including internal promotions, which is great because it’s all experienced people moving up in the business who have a hunger and passion for the work,” says General Manager Lorraine Goodman.
Lorraine has been with the company for 20 years, starting in Rafferty’s as a Sales Co-ordinator and moving to Team Leader and then Operations Manager. Now, two decades later, she’s running the company. “It’s been a real journey,” Lorraine tells us. “I love what I do and have always worked in the hospitality space. I caught the hotel bug early on, and after completing a Hotel & Tourism Management degree, worked in several hotels and restaurants, including The Gresham in Dublin and Da Vinci’s in Derry. I was looking for a change of pace so when this opportunity came up, I jumped at it.”
Lorraine tells us she is relishing the General Manager role. “It’s been brilliant and so exciting,” she says. “There’s a lot more getting out and about. I liaise with groups and organisations, and visit sites and suppliers, so a big part of my job is reaching out and making connections as well as maintaining the ones we already have. Development is key too, working towards new products and innovations.”
Brendan’s path began with a degree in Computing with Enterprise Studies, and from there he says he fell into sales and developed a love for it. He had been with sister company Bunzl McLaughlin for 15 years as Regional Manager, before taking up his current role running Bunzl Rafferty Guest Amenities sales and marketing division for Ireland and the United Kingdom.
Sales Coordinator Team Leader Emma has also been involved in hospitality for many years. She left school at 16 to do an apprenticeship in a travel agency, where she stayed for 12 years. “Since I was young, I always knew I wanted to work in a busy travel and tourism environment,” she tells us. “Having the previous experience of fulfilling customers’ needs and expectations, I think helped me to fit so well into the team here. I love this job.”
Tanya is also a Team Leader, and her background and passion is in customer service. She studied Business Administration before working in a customer focused role for five years, and then joined the company in 2006. “Customer service can be daunting and challenging, but it’s also a great buzz,” she says. “No two days are the same here, and even after 17 years I still learn something new every day.”
Bunzl Rafferty Guest Amenities could be simply described as a one-stop-shop for everything a hotel needs. This ‘everything’ includes guest amenities like shampoos and soaps; textiles, from slippers to pillowcases; bedroom capital, which covers the likes of ironing boards, luggage racks and hangers; bedroom consumables, like coffee and napkins; and bathroom accessories like bins and mirrors. Practically anything you could find in a hotel room or suite can be supplied by the company, and the product offering also extends beyond the bedroom to the main hotel areas, like menus, signage, staff badges, and public bins. Products from established brands are available, as well as quality generic branded options. The company is also a specialist in personalisation and supplies branded products, from umbrellas to welcome mats.
We ask just how important these items are to guests during a stay. “Oh, they’re crucial,” says Lorraine. “Guests are becoming much more discerning. They want quality products, like a decent hairdryer that will dry their hair like the one they have at home, and a good cup of coffee in their room.” Brendan agrees. “That’s why we’re constantly innovating to ensure we can provide our customers with the products their guests need and want,” he says. “We align with good suppliers and have exclusivity with some of the best brands out there, for example Rituals and Bvlgari. We visit trade shows to stay abreast of what’s happening, but we also try to stay ahead of trends and find the next big thing.”
The demand for sustainable products is also here to stay, and Bunzl Rafferty Guest Amenities has been working to offer a product range that is recyclable and environmentally friendly. “Every call we answer we’re asked, is that sustainable?” says Emma. “Most of our consumable products, especially our toiletries and coasters have sustainable options.” Brendan adds: “A real change is happening – for example with textiles, it’s all about buzzwords like drying time and the fill, and most hotels have moved to more sustainable guest amenities, like bulk instead of miniatures while guest accessories like dental and shaving kits are made of wood. Even our slippers don’t have plastic packaging.”
Lorraine offers us a product example: “A new concept is a coffee bag,” she says. “Brew it like a tea bag and it’s a lovely cup of coffee, much richer than basic instant. It’s biodegradable and sustainable, there’s an option to personalise, or we have a generic brand here.”
Each customer has unique requirements, so the team at Bunzl Rafferty Guest Amenities don’t just supply the products, they work closely with the customer to determine what products will best suit their business, as well as the quantities needed, both immediately and forecasted. “There’s a lot of two-way with the customer,” says Lorraine. “For example, we’ll need to supply them based on what they’ll need for the year, and this could be determined by occupancy projections or upcoming special offers. If they need the product to last for 12 months, we look at how much they need, how much they can store, and then have the next batch ready.”
Being solutions-focused is also a large part of what the team does. All four say they never want to leave a customer stuck, so they’ll always think on their feet and strive to meet a request, even under pressure. “For example, if a customer needs something in a rush, we’ll do our very best to get it,” says Tanya. “It could be a last-minute need for tablecloths or candelabras for a wedding, or a customer could have VIPs in for the weekend and wants chocolates in the room. We could get a call on a Thursday evening, so the order would have to be out by the next day.”
Emma adds: “Key is incredible product knowledge and building rapport with the customer, and then trust and reliability when it comes to them getting what they need when they need it. We’re very switched on and have procedures in place that allow us to keep a close eye on inventory, orders, and deliveries.”
The team is also on hand to deal with customer queries or any issues that may arise, and according to all four, the customer is at the heart of everything they do. “We pride ourselves on our customer service,” says Brendan. “Most field sales staff are with us 10 + years, so they have that expertise and passion. I was counting it up, and combined, they have over 200 years’ experience in the field. We also have a one-to-one service set up internally, to give our customers the best customer service possible.”
So, what’s next for such a fast-paced dynamic company? Brendan tells us Bunzl Rafferty Guest Amenities will continue to grow and thrive while meeting the needs of the ever-changing hospitality industry. “We’ll also continue to work to be the best out there and try to come to the market with new and innovative ideas. We’ve a new product development team and we meet monthly, and our field salespeople are constantly bringing in new ideas. Our brands are also very forward thinking and come to us with great ideas, and we also listen to our customers, who may have seen something they like when abroad. It’s all go!”
For more information go to www.bunzlrafferty.com or get in touch From UK / Republic of Ireland on (0)28 3025 2205 / (0)48 3025 2205