Five minutes with… Richard Fletcher, Managing Director, Foodservice Online

The former Caterite Managing Director discusses his new venture as he launches an e-commerce consultancy for foodservice businesses

What’s encouraged you to trade in a position at Caterite to launch Foodservice Online?

I was always fighting this burning urge to do something myself. It was always an ambition of mine to start my own business and I was beginning to think when I’d be able to do this. It was a very tough decision to give up a job I thoroughly enjoyed at Caterite to start Foodservice Online.

What’s the big idea?

Technology is becoming more important and it’s essential for businesses to be thinking about how they can utilise technology, otherwise there’s a genuinely big risk to their business in the future. There’s a need for somebody to bridge the gap between very traditional business and technology companies – so I started Foodservice Online to help businesses that are struggling with the challenge of getting an identity online.

Why does foodservice wholesale need to act now?

There’s a misconception in foodservice and wholesale that an online sales channel is something you can buy, then 12 months later it’ll be delivered and that’s job done. It’s a bigger challenge than that. I use the analogy that it’s like a Formula One team: you don’t buy the car, get in it and drive it yourself. You need a team that’s looking at aerodynamics and R&D, you need good drivers and to constantly have new parts to stay competitive.

Why is there such a gap in the market for e-commerce experts in wholesale?

Obviously B2C is huge when it comes to e-commerce, but B2B is going to be even bigger – the forecast is that it will be twice the size of B2C e-commerce by 2020. But there aren’t many B2B areas like foodservice where you’ve got the bespoke requirements to deal with six-day deliveries, customer by product and by price, the involvement of reps and telesales; it’s quite different to a B2B business that sells car parts or building supplies – it’s a lot more complex than that.

How can businesses take advantage?

A lot of people think of online orders when they think of e-commerce, but that’s just a fraction of it. Caterers require more than just ordering online, they need product information in incredible detail on sales, technical, description and reviews, and people don’t realise how much of a role that plays in the purchasing decision. There are layers of functionality a wholesaler needs in order to have the best website.


Caterite Foodservice Richard Fletcher