Gittins: Crisis the time to “pivot” business

Don’t let innovation stop after the Covid-19 crisis has passed – that’s Tom Gittins’ message to wholesalers as they continue to adapt to new conditions.

The Confex managing director believes the ingenuity shown by businesses across the industry – particularly those that normally supply foodservice outlets – has shown real potential for future growth in the future.

While Gittins admits that there are still plenty of hurdles to pass due to the coronavirus outbreak, he’s imploring wholesalers to embrace any additional time created by ongoing issues to make plans for when restrictions are relaxed.

“I saw something on LinkedIn the other day that one of our members posted about the things to do in a crisis: ready yourself, be raring to go and win business so you can grow as soon as it’s over,” said Gittins.

“There’s such an opportunity to pivot your business, so it’s important to take that. There will be a bit of a lag with your competitors getting going again [after the outbreak ends], so yes furlough, but don’t shut down and keep going with skeleton staff.

“Look to upgrade your business for the future and try new things outs – pivot your business. And also look to prepare yourself in case this happens again.”

Confex has stepped up its online focus in recent weeks, hosting its virtual trade show in lieu of the real thing at the end of March and directing more members to take advantage of its free online-ordering app.

But while Gittins says the need to think digital is crucial for long-term success, he also says foodservice wholesalers should be learning from their experiences of offering direct-to-consumer services too.

He concedes that the big challenge to make the model sustainable in the long term will be increasing basket spend, but has an idea he believes could prove to bridge that gap.

“I’ve been thinking about things – and this is a bit off the wall – but I think wholesalers should have a kitchen as well and almost be a takeaway too,” Gittins added.

“They’ve got the vans and got the people, so why can’t they? I remember reading a couple of years ago about the Amazon Food Hubs, where you can either eat in or takeaway or have meals delivered – and they’ll do any type of global food.

“They’ve literally got this big kitchen doing all that and I see it [in wholesale]. While you’re delivering all your food as a wholesaler, you can also deliver all their essentials as well, like we do with the home delivery.

“The trouble with home delivery is that in the short term is great to keep the wheel turning and get through all the stock, but they drop and if you’re delivering £20 of home essentials on a 10% margin, £2 doesn’t pay to do it. That’s why Amazon doesn’t do it.

“You need to get the basket spend up, so you can do that with a takeaway or bringing in your fresh fruit and veg or local meat next week. Delivery and digital is where it’s at.”

Confex is also looking to add new members to their ranks, with Gittins encouraging any interested wholesalers that aren’t already part of a buying group to get in touch with him at

buying group Confex coronavirus covid-19 delivery Foodservice Tom Gittins wholesaler