Creed’s de Ternant: “We need grants”

Creed Foodservice Managing Director Philip de Ternant says he still can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel as the industry continues to tackle the coronavirus outbreak.

While de Ternant says government plans have eased the short-term threat posed to his workforce, he believes more needs to be done to help foodservice wholesalers through the crisis – starting with grants to cover costs.

More than 150 of Creed Foodservice’s staff have been furloughed as a result of the government’s job retention scheme, although with the majority of customers still unable to pay for stock from the first three months of the year, there’s still a windfall that needs to be made up.

“The job retention scheme gives us breathing space for the payroll coming up,” said de Ternant. “But the government still isn’t recognising that our [the foodservice wholesale] industry has still got debt from January, February and March on the basis of the government closing down all the hospitality establishments. They’re now closed and not paying us.

“We need grants for those on the front line to keep the wheels and the cash moving, so we can continue buying and our suppliers can keep stocking us with the essentials.

“The government have been ok. We’ve deferred some of our tax payments, the banks have been great and supportive of us to extend our overdraft should we need it, but we [foodservice wholesalers] are all fighting over the next four or five weeks to see where we’re going to be. None of us can see the light at the end of the tunnel yet.”

De Ternant says Creed Foodservice is down more than 50% of where it should be this month, although his team is still working around the clock to keep private-sector services, such as hospitals, schools and prisons, supplied.

Having spoken to other foodservice wholesalers in similar position to his business, de Ternant believes many will be desperately balancing the need to continue serving those who need them while working out ways to keep paying ongoing costs, such as utilities and rent.

Country Range Group members, including Creed Foodservice, have put a proposal to its suppliers to ask for more time to pay for the stock purchased earlier this year, as they attempt to create solutions themselves.

“We’ve got suppliers to pay for the stock we’ve bought and we’ve asked them for a 90-day credit extension to help us,” de Ternant added.

“We’ve done that as the Country Range Group, so we’re in unison and all together. It’ll be interesting to see the sort of replies we get.

“We asked for 90 days and then we’ll start paying for the stock we’ve bought in January, February and March. If you imagine that big vicious circle of stock that’s come in our warehouses, we’ve already picked and delivered it, and caterers have now used it.

“We haven’t paid the suppliers yet, that’s coming at the end of this month, but we’ve got all those customers that are closed saying ‘sorry I may not be here, so there’s no way I can pay you’. We don’t have that money, but then we’ve still got all our ongoing costs.”

coronavirus Country Range Group covid-19 Creed Foodservice Foodservice wholesale