Woods Foodservice investment a “no brainer”

An 80% loss in turnover didn’t stop Woods Foodservice from investing when Managing Director Darren Labbett spotted an opportunity he couldn’t turn down.

The Confex member, which specialises in supplying top-end hospitality outlets, has used the lockdown to launch a new fresh produce arm to its business, supplying top quality fruit and veg to customers.

Woods Foodservice was one of several wholesalers that saw its business decimated when coronavirus restrictions came into force in March, so the new venture required a leap of faith – but Labbett is confident it’ll pay off.

“This is something I was thinking of doing for a few years, but I didn’t want to do it until we were in a position to compete with the best,” he said.

“There was a gap [of time] when all of our customers were closed, so it gave us an opportunity to set things up operationally, get our marketing in order and get our products on the system. A lot of hard work needed to be done behind the scenes to get ready for the reopening and it felt like the perfect opportunity. So when everyone reopens, it’s a level playing field. It became a no brainer.

“We’ve had to invest so it’s a bit of a gamble to do that while we haven’t got much revenue coming in. But because we’re a financially stable company and in a strong position pre-Covid, we were able to do that. We’re confident of it being reasonably successful at the very least, so we’ll get a return on investment when everything gets back to normal.”

While Labbett concedes external factors will dictate when that is, he’s certain the new offering will pay dividends even if there’s a second wave of Covid-19 in the UK as some experts predict.

The investment has seen them add four new members to the team – all moving from another premium food wholesaler that went into administration at the start of the crisis – and they’ve transferred a raft of product knowledge and contacts to get things up and running.

And with the new service launching in mid-June, Woods Foodservice is already seeing early signs it’s going to take off with existing customers, as well as new ones.

“We’re expecting some of our bigger customers to use us for fresh produce, so we see it as being a pretty big success,” Labbett added.

“We lost a lot of turnover over that period and it’s not going to return to normal levels for quite a while, so gaining the extra turnover from fresh produce will make up for the loss of turnover we wouldn’t have had.

“But from our customers’ point of view, it means they can get their orders from one supplier instead of two, which when they’re ordering smaller amounts will be useful, but also much more efficient for them as well.”

Confex coronavirus covid-19 Foodservice hospitality wholesaler Woods Foodservice