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Can we improve citylogistics to HoReCa? No!

One out of every three trucks and vans in city centers is going to hotels, bars and restaurants (HoReCa). Premium hotels are six or seven times more likely than shops to have a delivery truck parked outside. Two of Amsterdam’s premium hotels wondered if something couldn’t be done to change that. As it turns out, that won’t be so easy.

Gert-Jan Beeke and Walther Ploos van Amstel give five recommendations.

Premium hotels are working to become more sustainable. Their efforts have earned them the right to carry the Golden Green Key, the eco label that informs their guests that they are doing everything they can to minimise their hotel’s environmental footprint. Hotels are taking a critical look at how they get their supplies. Not only because the distribution of those supplies could be more sustainable, but also because all those trucks out in front of the building are hardly attractive for their guests and the local residents.

The city is also viewing the situation with a critical eye. The air quality in cities doesn’t meet European standards. One out of every three trucks in the city is there for hotels, bars and restaurants, as is one out of every five delivery vans. After construction logistics, the distribution to hotels, bars and restaurants is one of the spearheads in the discussion on how to make urban distribution more sustainable and improve air quality.

Premium hotels receive many deliveries

Most ordinary hotels, cafés and restaurants have their goods delivered in combined shipments from one or two suppliers. They receive their deliveries a few times a week at most. Unfortunately the delivery times are not often coordinated. Each company has its own delivery time. As a result, the suppliers drive into the same street multiple times a day. From the suppliers’ perspective, that is hardly efficient. At premium hotels and first-class restaurants, the situation is different. They each have many suppliers that come each day.

With their first-class restaurants, the premium hotels receive many small deliveries, many times a day. Can’t that be improved? Two premium hotels in Amsterdam (NL) – Hotel de L’Europe and NH Barbizon Palace – allowed Gert-Jan Beeke, a student at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (HvA), to come survey the situation in their kitchen and on the street. Commissioned by EVO, the Dutch shippers association, the study took place under the supervision of HvA teacher Jan van Duinen. Gert-Jan Beeke looked at which measures for urban distribution were best suited for distribution of supplies to premium hotels.

Twenty deliveries a day

Each of the premium hotels receives some 20 deliveries each day. Some suppliers of fresh goods deliver multiple times a day. Nearly half of all deliveries concerns fresh products such as meat, fish, bread and agricultural produce (potatoes, vegetables and fruit). The remaining product flows are wine, coffee and tea, other grocery items and linens. In addition, the hotels also have various waste streams and service flows (e.g. for dry cleaning).

The premium hotels and restaurants justifiably want to distinguish themselves and offer their customers a unique experience. Obviously the dishes they serve need to be fresh and the menu complete. For that reason, many suppliers of fresh goods such as meat and fish make deliveries every day. The purchasing in the hotels is well organized. In some cases, (additional) express deliveries are necessary in the afternoon due to incomplete or incorrect orders, although those are usually limited in number. But suppliers do enter into the same street much more often, since each hotel has its own delivery time windows.

Cluster De L’Europe Barbizon Palace
Fresh 42% 38%
Dry grocery items 17% 12%
Non-food 2% 6%
Wholesale 6% 8%
Waste 17% 13%
Linen 5% 12%
Dry cleaning 9% 10%
Other 2% 1%

Hard to combine orders

In the short term, the old adage about bundling freight flows and collaboration between suppliers isn’t going to work for the premium hotels. The diversity of suppliers and products is too great for that, and the delivery times of just a few hours – sometimes even directly to the kitchen from the supplier’s own fields – are too short. What is more, the suppliers aren’t yet open to collaborating with their competitors. They most often make use of their own drivers and their own trucks.

Many waste streams

What is remarkable is the huge number of trucks driving around to pick up trash. Besides the municipal services, there are also many private garbage-collection companies in the city center. Each hotel, restaurant or café owner has their own contracts, which results in garbage trucks driving through the street many times a day. That is not well coordinated; there needs to be more bundling, but also more use of clean technology.

Redevelopment of streets

The other restaurants and cafés in the neighborhood also have numerous such vehicles delivering goods to their door. Those are often literally lined up in the street, one behind the other. Moreover, the presence of so many taxis and tourist buses certainly don’t make things any easier.

Periodical street-redevelopment plans should take into consideration the best places for loading and unloading facilities for suppliers and stopping zones for tourist buses and taxis. The Hotel de L’Europe’s dynamic loading and unloading zones indicated with LED lighting, is a good example. At the NH Barbizon Palace there are possibilities for redeveloping the street to improve the flow of traffic.

Five recommendations for improvements

Here are five recommendations for business owners and the city of Amsterdam:

  • Aim for a greater use of more-sustainable transport technology for the inevitable distribution to hotels, restaurants and cafés in the city center by stimulating the use of clean fuels and electric vehicles and perhaps even by creating low-emissions zones for delivery vans. The hotels can also encourage this by asking for it from their suppliers when negotiating purchasing agreements.
  • The new transport technology is more expensive and the operational lifetime costs are uncertain. Smart fresh-goods wholesalers should already be thinking about bundling loads together with their competitors, outsourcing to (local) city distributors and coordinating any deliveries to the same street, just as local suppliers like 020Stadsdistributie, Sligro and Deli XL are doing. The Foodcenter in Amsterdam is the perfect place to bundle all these flows.
  • Use street management to coordinate the supplier delivery times and the collection of waste streams between the various hotels, restaurants and cafés. The Amsterdam Nieuwmarkt initiative is attempting to do precisely that.
  • Make sure the hotels are easily accessible and have enough – dynamic – loading and unloading zones at their disposal. Having a good flow of traffic in the city center is of great importance to the hotels, bars and restaurants. Dynamic traffic management can help in that regard.
  • Study the options for making the transport of waste in the city center better and cleaner (e.g. by water). There is no excuse for the fact that one out of every seven trucks in the city center is transporting garbage. This is clearly a task for the city.

Can we substantially improve the distribution to hotels, bars and restaurants in city centres? Not really. The familiar urban-distribution measures such as bundling and collaboration won’t lead to any quick fixes for the delivery of goods to hotels, restaurants and cafés. Many suppliers to the hotels, bars and restaurants are already bundling their deliveries and would only need to coordinate their delivery times. For premium hotels and restaurants, frequent and rapid deliveries are valuable.

To keep city centers attractive for visitors, there needs to be room for the distribution of goods to the hotels, bars and restaurants. They are the ones who ensure that customers will eventually go home satisfied: well-fed, well-rested. In return, however, the hotels and the suppliers can be expected to ensure that the distribution takes place in a cleaner way. Cleaner technology is the green key in that regard. Or do you have a better solution?

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