Yann Touzet, a Vatel Lyon 2001 graduate, spent several years in London in the Westminster Palace purchasing department for the Chamber of the Lords, before coming back to France to found his own company: APPRO’Solutions.
Yann, after graduating from Vatel, you began your career as a Purchaser at the Lyon Hilton Hotel: how did you get this first job?
I did my final internship in the Sofitel Lyon Bellecour commissary department. That’s where I discovered the hidden parts of the iceberg: purchasing and auditing in a hotel. The purchasing manager, now one of my friends, helped me learn the tricks of the trade and I started to like this job. After I finished my internship, I jumped at an opportunity offered by Relais & Chateaux to be their bar manager. Maybe you’ll say that this was a far step from public bids, supplier negotiations and calculating ratios. This experience lasted two months, and then the Hilton Lyon HR Manager gave me a call to be their goods delivery manager, and hinted that the purchaser might be leaving soon. So I was hired as the goods delivery manager and the purchaser left the hotel a few months later. So for three years, I gradually gained experience in purchasing at the Hilton.
Then you left for London and worked for two years in the Conrad Hotel Chelsea Harbour***** as the Management Auditor then Procurement Manager: what did you do in these jobs?
My role as the Management Auditor in this hotel, which is the only one in London that only proposes suites, was quite a traditional one:
- calculating all F&B ratios and costs,
- putting in place technical sheets (assisted by the Chef and Bar manager),
- calculating sale prices,
- putting in place par stocks (initial stock, replenishing stock), spot checks (unexpected outlet sales controls, surprise inventory checks, etc.),
- doing inventory at the end each month,
- recording stock movements in the hotel,
- monthly closing and drawing up ratios, etc.
I was also in charge up updating the Fidelio F&B and Micros IT systems, and training operational employees to optimize their use of the system. A very complete line of work, which blended understanding what operational employees actually do, with exacting figures.
At the same time, Conrad gave me the opportunity of doing a six month internal management training course. My dissertation was about the Procurement function in the hotel industry and was executive board chose it as being the best project. The hotel’s Procurement and Negotiation functions had been outsourced to consultants, but after my presentation and cost calculations, management decided to bring this function back internally. So I took care of most bids, market studies and negotiations with suppliers and also was involved in development of new products.
In 2007, you became the Catering Procurement Manager for the English Parliament in Westminster Palace. 11 restaurants and bars, over 1,500 meals per day to source: tell us more about this incredible experience.
After having worked for slightly over 5 years in purchasing for luxury hotels, I wanted a challenge outside of the hospitality industry, but still in purchasing. The advantage of the United Kingdom and especially London, is that these jobs are open to anyone who has the required skills and experience. You don’t have to wait until you’re 45 to have a good job. I had the opportunity of working in the Westminster Chamber of the Lords: this was a challenge to transpose my skills to the public sector.
There were a lot of protocols to be followed and I was always accountable. And you need transparency, because, at the end of the day, it’s the tax payer who is paying! As all Parliament services are strictly monitored, you have to make sure your service is run in a responsible way. My role was a purely strategic one in setting up and drawing up public tenders in compliance with European rules and regulations. I worked closely with Irish, Scot and Welsh colleagues on files we had in common (in particular on sustainable development, fair-trade and local sourcing) and this was a very enriching experience both from a professional and human point of view. And between us, it was really cool having your office in the “Houses of Parliament”!
After all of this experience, you came back to France in 2009 to found your own company, “APPRO’Solutions” which offers specialized “procurement” solutions for hotels and restaurants. Can you tell us how you came to found this company?
“APPRO’Solutions” finalizes everything that I learned and all my professional experience. Outsourcing for human resources or purchasing was quite common in the Anglo-Saxon hotel and restaurant sectors, and I thought this vision could interest the French market. But there was still an unknown in this equation: the difference between corporate cultures. Between France and England, there’s a huge difference. Everything that’s English can’t necessarily be transposed to France, and vice versa.
The goal was to offer services that were different than those proposed in France by purchasing/reference centers while highlighting professional support services in managing purchasing. Even though APPRO’Solutions targets all of France, my preliminary market study concerned the Rhone-Alps region, where I was born. To launch it, I worked with the Lyon CCI, but most of all I was supported by Escale Creations, a cooperative society located in Saint Fons, which allows young entrepreneurs to test their projects before rolling them out, thus often avoiding poorly allocating resources when you start. As we work closely with people, most advertising is by word of mouth, which is a great asset for our company.
Can you give us a few facts and figures about your company?
APPRO’Solutions offers services that can be adapted to any type of purchasing based or auditing need in the hotel and restaurant sector: management of suppliers’ contracts, public tenders, auditing, support and consulting. Even though we are mobile throughout all of France, we are especially present in the two French Savoie regions, and also in Switzerland where we’ve got several very specific projects. Our next step will be to strongly expand our presence around Lyon.
Depending on how quickly APPRO’Solutions grows, and demand for our types of services in France, this sector could be one growing quickly in the upcoming years, just like it did recently in England. Outsourcing services is something that is happening more and more, and roles played by consultants are thus more important. But you must never forget that before you can give advice as a consultant, you have to have a lot of experience!
And as you do have a lot of experience, what advice for the future would you like to give Vatel students?
Ask yourselves the right question: what do I really love doing? Most jobs in the hospitality and restaurant sector are jobs that you have to love doing: cooking, serving guests, management, and they all require a lot of personal investment. If you don’t love what you’re doing, you won’t be enthusiastic about it anymore, and you have to look for another type of job!
Integrity, transparency, paying special attention to details: these are all assets that, in the long term, will allow you to shine above others in whatever jobs you’re doing. And our field remains a sector where networking is important, where everyone knows everyone else and everything else, for better or for worse, so you have to highlight your assets.
Did going to Vatel help you find the job you loved?
My family members are all bakers and pastry cooks, so I’ve always been attracted by culinary professions, and by cooking, in particular. Vatel helped me pursue this passion, while allowing me also to discover other alternatives to hotel management and catering services. The internships I did also allowed me to work in several different kinds of hotels; all being managed differently, from a family-owned hotel only open during the tourist season to a hotel chain. Vatel also allowed me to discover London, and without this, I perhaps never would have had all of this experience on the other side of the Channel.
What are your next goals?
In May, we’re going to launch our “Pack APPRO”, which will be a reference center for regional hotels and restaurants with specialized suppliers in their respective fields and ones that we will have validated to be included in our “Pack.” We’re also continuing to hire new employees and have projects in other regions.