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Caught in the Middle - How to Purchase Hospitality FF&E Like a Pro

Updated: Dec 5, 2019

From time to time we like to focus on the challenges purchasing pros have within the hospitality community. They often find themselves caught between the needs of designers, vendors, and of course the project’s owners.

Purchasing professionals must negotiate an array of demands to deliver great products on time, and of course within budget. We have addressed some of the larger issues with Steven A. “Gus” Sarff III, President of GS Associates, Newburyport, MA. Gus shares his strategy of finding success in a continual sea of challenges.

Understand the Big Picture

“We see this as project outcome where buying and designing is a part of it,” says Sarff. “It’s our job to help in all aspects of the process as we see a transformation from very detailed drawings, to a spec and a photo, and finally delivery. We coordinate all the information from interior designers to make this happen.”

It’s also why GS Associates utilizes a project orientation program with the selected designer. As soon as a project is awarded, a meeting is set to create expectations while mapping out a plan on how to achieve project goals.

Hotel Julian Designed by Gettys Purchased by GS Associates

Negotiate Expected Purchasing Challenges

Sarff says one of the biggest challenges we have is the quality of design documentation. “This can affect the schedule if not done right. Many times, the nature of a project timeline doesn’t give us time to go through the process in the time we’d like.Therein lies the challenge of what we do. We struggle because we feel it’s important to deliver a project on time and on budget, so we [focus heavily] on early intervention and preventative review to explore issues before they happen. We want to avoid those problems biting us, so we’re continually working on procurement software that’s streamlining our processes.”

Albany Renaissance Designed by Cauhous Design Purchased by GS Associates

A 'Material' Effort 

“When it comes to buying furniture, the goal is balancing the right materials and budget. Sarff says when the company receives designer specs, the team goes out to market to look at material options and resolve functional issues to arrive at the right mix of materials and design“.

Be warned, Sarff says. Owners will never step away from long-term commercial durability. “We have to get 10 years out of a piece of furniture. While wood species and veneers are subject to change, you cannot change the quality of the joinery and quality of the finished products,” Sarff says. “We are getting designer specs and going out to market. From a joint effort of the team, designer and owner we look at material options to resolve functional issue