Size doesn’t matter for Covid-19 survival – Selley

Big or small, it doesn’t matter – that’s Bidfood Chief Executive Andrew Selley’s assessment of the hardships facing wholesalers in the Covid-19 crisis.

While many people are focusing on size being the differentiator between success and failure as the coronavirus pandemic threatens foodservice businesses, Selley says that it’s strength of operation that matters most.

Selley was talking as part of TWC’s latest Sound Bites vlog and outlined his belief that the foodservice wholesalers that will pull through the chaos won’t automatically be ones with scale on their side.

“I don’t think it’s a matter of big or small, it’s about how good of an operator you and how good of a performer you are,” Selley said

“We operate a very de-centralised business, so each of our depot general managers is in charge of their own small business. We operate some independent wholesale businesses, such as Caterfood and South Lincs Foodservice, so we understand the economic impact on both – and there isn’t much difference.

“Bidfood is 20 times the challenges of South Lincs and we’re all operating on a lot of fixed estate and assets, and we all have the same challenges in terms of getting payment from customers and getting chased by suppliers.

“Size is not a determinant of future success, I think it’s your ability and capability of your teams.”

Listen to Selley’s full interview on TWC’s Sound Bites

Communication has been central to Bidfood’s reaction to the outbreak, with an equal focus on furloughed employees as the ones still remaining in the business.

The foodservice wholesaler has recently launched an app called Engage Four, providing furloughed staff with business news, allowing them to form chat groups and do surveys and polls.

Even with Bidfood benefiting from taking part in initiatives, such as the one with Defra and Brakes to supply care packages to vulnerable people around the UK, the business has still felt the pinch of so many hospitality businesses closing down. And Selley says it’s a constantly moving feast when it comes to planning for an exit strategy.

“Like everyone else, [foodservice] wholesale is generally between 20 and 40% of your prior volumes and – my guess is as good as anybody else’s – but if you look at the type of businesses we supply and the way we think emerging from lockdown will happen, who’s to say when gyms, bowling alleys, bingo halls will be back in business?” he said.

“We do ferries, airline lounges, tourism, theme parks. I have no idea when those places will be able to operate again. If we have an idea of how hotels, restaurants and contract catering in the workplace will be allowed to re-emerge, but because of the drive towards home working, we have no idea what the demand will be for things like contract catering in the workplace.

“That’s a rough guide that we’re working on, but like everyone else we revise our forecasts every week depending on what news comes out from the government in terms of what may or may not active in the future.”

Watch the full interview on TWC’s Sound Biteswhich includes chats with a host of industry figures.

Bidfood coronavirus covid-19 Foodservice Sound Bites TWC wholesale