Andrew Selley, Bidfood, CEO

Wholesalers ask for “consistency, clarity, equality and simplicity”

Bidfood CEO Andrew Selley has reiterated the need for direct government support to maintain the foodservice wholesale sector as it battles the triple threat of Covid-19, EU exit and uncertainty over festive season demand.

He also called on product suppliers to help caterers with simplified ranges and standard products “with a Christmas twist” rather than exclusively Christmas lines.

Speaking in the FWD’s Countdown to Christmas debate, Selley said: “What we need from the government is clarity, consistency and equality. The rules for hospitality are so complicated even the Prime Minister recently got them wrong.

“Support needs to be equal too – we have the business rates debacle of Tesco receiving £900m when wholesale continues to struggle. It’s not right and it needs to be fixed.”

Planning for the triple threat is the responsibility of the entire supply chain and one that requires not only government intervention but close co-operation and communication between wholesalers and their suppliers.

FWD: Bringing Wholesale Together

“Christmas is a challenge as our customers don’t yet know what demand will be,” Selley said. “Our request to suppliers is to keep it simple and our recommendation to customers is to go with a menu of standard items with a Christmas twist, rather than specifically Christmas items. Wholesalers won’t want to expose themselves to high levels of excess Christmas-related stock if there’s a chance consumers won’t be eating out. We expect customers to go for more frozen options.

“We’ve enjoyed a lot of support from suppliers but there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. We talk about Covid as if it applies equally across all sectors and all parts of the country. Some parts of our business are performing better than last year, while others remain fundamentally closed. We’re looking at what we can do by customer sector and by geography that’s different. That’s why it’s all about communication.

“Within the wholesale sector we have fantastic teams of resilient people. We have some innovative customers – the way they’ve transformed their business, to retail, home delivery or takeaway, we’ve seen some perform better than expected because they changed their business model.

“There’s an understanding that everyone in the supply chain has their own challenges but when consumers go out at Christmas, they will want something special and it’s for all of us to ensure we provide them with that special experience, without creating problems for ourselves of stockholding or unfulfilled promises.”

The next FWD Bringing Wholesale Together session is on 28 October at 2pm. These sessions are for FWD’s wholesaler, supplier and service provider members.

Andrew Selley Bidfood Christmas coronavirus covid-19 Foodservice FWD hospitality suppliers