Nick Redford, Zest Food Partners

Stock issues could threaten hospitality boom – Redford

Zest Food Partners Strategy Director Nick Redford fears a “disconnect” in the supply chain could stymie the hospitality boom foodservice wholesalers will experience.

The former Caterforce Managing Director worries that one of the biggest challenges business will face as the sector reopens following Covid-19 is availability, with independents likely to suffer most if that happens.

And while he expects the sector’s growth to still be significant as Covid-19 lockdown restrictions are relaxed, he predicts there still could be some frustration for wholesalers.

“One of the main issues is the disconnect in the supply chain,” said Redford. “There’s tonnes of stock sat in the system, some suppliers are waiting for it to happen, with stock availability being one of the issues for both parties, but from a different angle.

“Wholesalers are just going turn around to the suppliers and want stock, but suppliers are going to look back – there’s problems with the ports still, there’s logistical issues with the transport capacity in this country, so there’s going to be lots of this. It’s who’s got the clout to ensure they’re serviced first?

“Are the independents going to lose out, for example? Are the suppliers going to prioritise Bidfood and Brakes? For me, this whole supply chain is the biggest threat to the foodservice boom – I still think it’s going to boom, but it’ll definitely impinge on how big it can actually get.”

Redford’s comments come as Zest’s Working Together To Rebuild Foodservice insight report found product availability was the second highest challenges wholesalers were concerned about – only beaten by concerns about short-dated stock.

While there will undoubtedly be some bumps in the road as businesses get back on their feet after a damaging year, Redford believes it’s a great chance for wholesalers and suppliers to review the way they work with each other.

That could mean fewer face-to-face meetings – although Zest’s research found 70% of suppliers said they’d prefer to meet in person versus 71% of wholesalers preferring email – but more importantly on stock ranges.

“There’s going to be chain reaction and it’s going to start at the end user,” Redford explained.

“There’s no doubt, certainly in the early days, we’re going to see much narrower menus and as we see that, there’s going to be narrower volume.

“Wholesale for me is going to rationalise its SKU count heavily. People who stock thousands of products into foodservice, I think that’s going to contract by 20-25% as an absolute minimum.

“That will have a backward effect on suppliers because some products will get channelled up that demand shoot and some will fall by the wayside. From a front-end point of view, there’s going to be huge narrowing of products that come through the supply chain.”

Caterforce coronavirus covid-19 Foodservice hospitality Nick Redford wholesaler Zest Food Partners