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Rolf in the News

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Rolf in the News

  1. 1. THE INTERNATIONAL REVIEW OF MARINE CATERING TECHNOLOGIES, PROVISIONS AND SERVICES MARCH 2015 INTERVIEW: CARNIVAL CORP’S ROLF HENSCHE Meet the man responsible for sourcing all of Carnival Corp’s F&B requirements, and discover his priorities regarding suppliers GULF/CARIBBEAN OFFSHORE REPORT Hard-working deck hands demand choice, quality – and lots of carbs TRIMLINE LAUNCHES GALLEY DEMO UNIT Exclusive report on the interior refurbishment specialist’s new galley demonstration area ALL HANDS ON DECK: NAVAL CATERING How have navies been able to simplify the workload of chefs, given their other onboard responsibilities? NewgenerationHow technology, choice and a fresh take on food are helping cruise lines attract a younger clientele
  2. 2. H 04 • INTERVIEW: ROLF HENSCHE March 2015 • Marine Catering International He’s the man with the billion dollar expense account. Well, not quite, but he is responsible for purchasing all the food and drink consumed on the 100 ships on the water right now that make up the Carnival Group: “We are building so many, it’s hard to keep up,” quips Rolf Hensche, vice president, food and beverage sourcing, Carnival Corporation. “On average we are spending about US$10 million per ship per year on food and drink; so that’s about US$195,000 per week, per ship,” he continues. “As a group, over a year, it can exceed a billion dollars across the fleet.” Purchasing on such a vast scale enables Hensche and his surprisingly small team (just five in total) to apply serious pressure on suppliers to ensure the group gets the best possible deal: “I look at the spend across all the business and we try to apply leverage wherever we can,” he says. BUY THE NUMBERS by Anthony James Meet Rolf Hensche, vice president, F&B sourcing at Carnival Corp – responsible for ensuring the group gets the best possible bang for its buck
  3. 3. Marine Catering International • March 2015 INTERVIEW: ROLF HENSCHE • 05
  4. 4. 06 • INTERVIEW: ROLF HENSCHE March 2015 • Marine Catering International The F&B sourcing team divide their total spend into specific groups of provisions – for example Hensche is able to tell me that the corporation spent US$140m on beef alone last year. “We have nearly 30 categories: from canned food to coffee, dairy, dry groceries, flour and cake mixes, fresh and frozen bread, beef, pork, veal, seafood, to name just a few.” The team also defines delivery schedules for each category to individual ships throughout the year. Software, developed internally, shoulders a great deal of the work, enabling the team to gather information from each operator and each ship on the provisions required, before putting the goods needed out to tender with suppliers in all the regions served by the cruise line. “We have developed our own in-house bid system,” confirms Hensche. “Each business unit is completely independently operated, with their own item specifications and all their own item numbers and descriptions. We have to go along and make sense of that – we have to create a specification for Carnival Corporation and then map individual items from all the business units to that particular specification,” he continues. “We have thousands and thousands of line items in food and beverage that we have mapped to a standard item under the corporation; and then we go out with that to the supply base and they come back with a price based on the volume for a specific area. We will get quotes for the east and west coasts of the USA, a quote for Australia, a quote for Alaska and so on. We then play that back to each of the operating companies through our in-house system. For example, if we need to work on frozen groceries, we pull up all the frozen groceries items, and send the list to the business units. They give us their volumes and then we go out with that at a corporate level for suppliers to begin bidding.” New items requested by chefs on board eventually find their way into the system: “The business units are required to come to us and ask if they want to implement a new item,” he explains. “They send that item information through the bid system to us, we review the item, make sure that it doesn’t already exist somewhere else in the system, and then we assign either a new number to it or we map it to an existing item in the system, so that we can keep track of it and start working with suppliers on getting quotes.” A barbecue on board Carnival Breeze (above); and Carnival Breeze’s Cucina del Capitano in full swing (below) “The corporation spent $140m on beef alone last year”
  5. 5. INTERVIEW: ROLF HENSCHE • 09 Marine Catering International • March 2015 What’s new? As one of the industry’s most influential buyers, Hensche is well positioned to advise on current food and beverage trends for the sector. “Consumers are becoming increasingly health conscious,” he notes. “We seem to be moving away from the idea that more is better – instead there is greater interest in quality over quantity, which is good to see. This is the biggest change I have seen: we have much more discerning guests who better understand what they eat and drink.” Regarding the latter, Hensche and his team have had to respond to a strong demand for more premium beverage brands: “For example, we may have used a white label spirit in the past, but now we are asked for a brand name such as Bacardi or Grey Goose. This is definitely more and more the way that our customers – and therefore our F&B managers – think.” This desire for greater quality has also seen Carnival Cruise Line invest heavily in USDA prime beef for its for-fee steakhouses, as well as being available as a for-fee option in its main dining rooms: “I think Carnival is one of the only cruise lines to offer USDA prime beef in its restaurants and this has increasingly become a factor for guests, who are making a decision to pay the extra US$35 to go into our steakhouses. Again, it just shows that quality is the issue.” Supply chain management This preference for better quality comes at a price, but fortunately Hensche is in a position where he can still drive a great bargain: “The quality of each Hensche says one of the hardest items to source is lobster, because “it is very seasonal. It’s a wild product, you can’t just pick it up. It all depends on what they catch and the price changes sometimes on a daily basis. You have to talk to a lot of contacts and make sure you buy at the right time at the right price, as the difference can be hundreds of thousands of dollars if we miss an opportunity or misinterpret information from our suppliers. We can spend over US$150m on beef, whereas we spend only US$50m to US$60m on lobster, yet it requires a lot of my time during the season, which is usually between May and September. So it’s one of the more difficult items to get right.” A lobster entrée – Hensche says sourcing lobster at the best price is a particular challenge “We may have used a white label, but now we are asked for a brand name” LOBSTER TALES
  6. 6. 10 • INTERVIEW: ROLF HENSCHE March 2015 • Marine Catering International item is defined through the specification sheets that are created by the business units,” he notes. “We then try to get that at the best possible price anywhere in the world. We can apply leverage as we are not just buying for Princess or for Holland America Line – we are buying for all our business units across the whole group – so with that volume we can put ourselves in a better place and get a price reduction,” he continues. However, the group’s bargaining power has seen it start to look further up the supply chain: “We are also about smart sourcing,” explains Hensche. “We try to get closer along the supply chain, where we go direct to the producers and try to develop buying programs with them. In the past we would have gone to distributors because we didn’t have enough volume to really go that step further, but now it has evolved to where we can actually go direct to the producers and get better pricing.” The desire for greater quality, as well as the need to guarantee food safety and hygiene, requires Hensche and his team to keep close tabs on their suppliers. “They obviously have to meet the required national and international laws and regulations, and they have to show us clearly what they can provide us with, quality-wise,” he says. “We also usually look at references, and depending on who it is, we will also do a site visit and check out the factory ourselves, while assessing all the industry information and comparing them to their peers.” That’s not to say there haven’t been problems in the past: “Yes, there are occasionally issues with suppliers,” admits Hensche. “But it’s standard stuff – getting a less well-known brand of ketchup when we have asked for Heinz, for example. But these are general things that can be sorted quickly.” More serious problems are less to do with individual suppliers and more to do with logistics and international trade: “We sometimes have problems, for example, when we buy rice from Asia,” explains Hensche. “The rice can sometimes be held at the border when it comes into the USA and we can’t get it in time. Instead, we have to source rice locally until the containers are released. However, it still creates problems because whenever we order something, it is container loads or more, and you can’t just go out and buy 20,000 lbs of rice tomorrow morning – it’s just not possible to do that and have it on the ship by Saturday.” To insure itself against such problems, each ship carries reserve supplies in case of a delay. “The ships have some emergency inventory, usually half a week to a week at least, so that gives us a few days to resolve things,” says Hensche. “We have also been able to create a group of core suppliers who understand the business we are in and they have usually been able to help us when it comes to such problems,” he adds. “We all help each other.” It’s actually surprising that there aren’t more problems, given the circumstances: “There is a very short window of opportunity to supply the ships – six hours at the most. Once that opportunity is gone, it doesn’t easily present itself again, particularly when the ships are away from the main turnover port and on an island Carnival sources USDA prime beef for its onboard steakhouses, with customers prepared to pay for quality Rolf Hensche is also a long-serving director of the Marine Hotel Association (MHA), which will celebrate its 30th anniversary at its annual conference and trade show, April 12-14, 2015, Naples Grande Beach Resort, Naples, Florida, USA. “It’s going to be a very exciting MHA this year,” says Hensche. “A lot of fun, but I can’t talk too much about it!” However, he is prepared to say that a future show is likely to take to the water: “We are trying to bring the show on board a ship in the near future to allow suppliers to get a better picture and a better understanding of what it is we are dealing with. “Another big part of the MHA of course is the education program, where we send employees to business schools all over the world while the MHA picks up the tab.” MARINE HOTEL ASSOCIATION ROLE
  7. 7. March 2015 • Marine Catering International 12 • INTERVIEW: ROLF HENSCHE that requires flying stuff to them, which we do if needed, but in general we have been able to sort it directly then and there in the home port.” All goods are delivered on fumigated pallets, with the group adept at maximizing onboard storage. “In most cases we try to have chilled space that can be converted into freezer space when needed, and this is taken into consideration during the building of each ship.” Great care is taken to source the ‘freshest’ items possible: “We try to get as much shelf life as we can,” says Hensche, “so the product has to be as fresh as possible when delivered, so that it will stay good for a 10-day voyage.” Inevitably some items are picked up en route. “Depending on the area we are cruising in, we can buy along the way from approved suppliers, but there are a lot of areas where you don’t really want to buy outside your scope, so that requires us to simply get the freshest possible product at the turnaround stage.” Despite the temptation to make life easier by switching to more preprepared items, Hensche says the majority of food is still made from scratch on board: “You won’t find precooked sauces and you’d be amazed to see the amount of bones we deliver to a ship for them to make the sauces and stocks with!” Information age Looking forward, Hensche says technology is increasingly integral to the onboard experience. “Passengers can download an app to make bookings on board direct from their cell phones, while we can message them about an ice cream party on pool deck four, for example, if we know they are ice cream lovers. This technology will only grow and make our life much easier.” Hensche refers to Royal Caribbean’s robotic bartenders on board its latest ship, Quantum. Customers at its Bionic Bar can order cocktails via tablet devices, then watch as robots mix their drinks. “All this type of stuff is coming more to the forefront. As technology becomes more proven and cheaper to implement, we are looking at what we can do next.” However there are still hurdles to overcome: “We have some issues with simply getting the necessary communications bandwidth on the ships,” he notes. “The satellite companies are struggling to give us more bandwidth. There are a lot of things we would like to do – guests could book tours via a mobile app, but all of this takes away from the bandwidth available on board and makes it difficult for us to take advantage of technology already proven shoreside.” Despite all the new technology, a large part of the business is still done face to face. “I do believe in picking up the phone and setting up an appointment and talking to people direct if there are problems, rather than being behind an email somewhere.” It helps, of course, when a supplier is in an exotic location. “Personally I enjoy Southeast Asia, as I am a scuba diver and there are some great sites for that,” remarks Hensche. “There are so many beautiful things, the people are incredibly friendly and open and there is wonderful food, history, and things to do.” No doubt bartering over the price of a good meal among the street stalls of Bangkok or Singapore comes naturally to someone who buys millions of dollars of food on a weekly basis. • Carnival Breeze off the Caribbean island of St Thomas (above); customers tucking in to sushi (right) “You’d be amazed to see the amount of bones we deliver to a ship!”

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