Case Study

FirstService Residential Perfects Its Recipe for Food and Beverage Service Success

June 28, 2023
Hands holding sustainable packaged food containers

FirstService Residential provides property management services to 8,500 homeowner associations and property management companies nationwide. The Hollywood, Florida, company also manages the properties’ clubhouses and any onsite food and beverage services.

One issue FirstService faces is that although all 8,500 locations can utilize Provista contracts, many property managers are not using them or not aware of them. Robert Baldwin, CFBE, CGSP, FirstService’s regional food and beverage director for the South, is determined to change that.

“My new task is to start the campaign and share information to get all locations to tap into Provista contracts and increase their spend on contract. We have buildings that do $10 million renovations, so we need these on contract to get the rebates and benefit from the 10% to 20% discount on goods when we buy them,” Baldwin says. “It’s crazy to me that anyone would not be using these contracts.”

A Provista member since 2018, the company recently consolidated all of its group purchasing organization (GPO) spend with Provista. Now, Provista is the sole GPO. 


Baldwin has been with FirstService for about one year. During that time, he oversaw a strategic move from using multiple GPOs to only Provista.
In the fall of 2021, Provista performed a financial analysis for FirstService that showed significantly competitive pricing. While costs are important, Provista’s ability to offer contracts via two of the nation’s largest food service distributors—as well as other non-food suppliers—played a huge role in FirstService’s decision to consolidate procurement with Provista.
“The ability to use these distributors was the deciding factor because we could use dual broadline distributors,” Baldwin says. “We started with Provista to leverage their buying power. As we go nationwide, the contracts scale with us. We also have the flexibility to choose vendors, so we don’t have anyone telling us, ‘You have to buy from this company.’ It makes the teams onsite happy, and we can go to the board and say, ‘Just FYI, we use contracts from Provista, and we’re going to save you 20% on your purchases.’”

Even with access to a robust contract portfolio, FirstService faces unique challenges due to the customers it serves and the nature of the rapidly changing food service industry. Some of the issues include:

  • Convincing chefs who are entrenched in certain brands to switch to other quality products, but at a lower price.
  • Helping drive profitability at each property
  • Optimizing the broad range of contracts that Provista offers
  • Ensuring products are available when they’re needed

The properties that FirstService serves are all non-profit, with some losing money on food and beverages—losses that total more than $2 million per year for some locations. Baldwin wants to mitigate losses and turn the properties’ food and beverage offerings into a revenue generator.
He shows property managers what Provista offers and the value the contracts deliver, helping solve customers’ profit and loss problem among other challenges. Once the property managers see the potential cost savings, product availability, food trend information and other factors that influence buying decisions, they realize the advantages of buying through Provista.   
Another focus for Baldwin is helping educate chefs at the various properties. A chef himself, Baldwin spends time with his peers in their kitchens to demonstrate opportunities to serve great food while also saving money.
Another opportunity, ironically, results from the pandemic. As many food service providers experienced during COVID-19, customers preferred to dine at home. This prompted organizations to increase their takeout service. FirstService found that once in-person dining reopened, the takeout and delivery business remained strong.
“When we reopened in-person dining at one property, revenue quadrupled because the takeout business stayed strong,” Baldwin says. 


““I like working with Provista because they cut through the red tape for getting products, and they drive food savings and value.”
—Robert Baldwin, FirstService Residential ”


Provista solutions help FirstService overcome many of its toughest challenges, such as:

  • Onboarding suppliers quickly so FirstService can leverage their contracts
  • Moving toward standardizing products across all locations
  • Improving food planning with Provista’s informational news updates
  • Sharing insights on products, availability and market trends 

FirstService is also working with Provista to review the top 20 items used at each location to make sure those products are on contract to ensure cost savings. In 2023, FirstService and its food and beverage customers will also attend food shows, hosted by US Foods and available to Provista members, to see and sample various foods.
Because Provista provides so many food contracts, it can be difficult for chefs and property managers to know the full breadth of offerings. The food shows enable them to sample and experience different options and decide if they fit the chefs’ menus.
“The shows let food and beverage teams see what’s available,” Baldwin says. “We also see other valuable contracts that we can utilize. Provista’s broad portfolio is good, and now we’re looking at how to tap into contracts for each property.”


Baldwin is currently exploring sous vide food contracts from Provista. The cooking technique could provide significant benefits to the properties he serves including a streamlined cooking approach that doesn’t require skilled chefs, the ability to open a kitchen without a grill or hood vent and a variety of great-tasting food options.  
“Properties have a need for a company that can develop food concepts, like sous vide cooking, that can open up a whole new market,” Baldwin says. “There are a lot of places that want to cook, but they don’t have a hood. Sous vide can let you do everything hoodless, which is huge because installing a hood in a kitchen can cost at least $25,000.”
Baldwin finds that one benefit of being on Provista’s Hospitality Advisory Council—which brings members from the food service industry together to collaborate, share expertise and have a say in the Provista contract process—is the ability to connect with a sous vide expert to learn more about it. He also talks with other Provista members about their food challenges and solutions.
“Some things others are doing can be applied to my world and others can’t, but I always learn things that I can apply to my locations, especially with newer products,” he points out.
He describes his relationship with Provista as “excellent.” For example, he says his Provista main point of contact always responds quickly to questions or requests for information.
“Ashley finds solutions quickly, and I usually need things quickly,” Baldwin explains. “I see a lot of value in the GPO model. Big hotels have been using GPOs for food and beverages for a long time because of the benefits and the leverage for purchasing. I like working with Provista because they cut through the red tape for getting products, and they drive food savings and value.” 


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