Covid-19: A year on from oblivion

As we all took to our houses last March, it was anybody’s guess what the next 12 months would have in store. But what have some of wholesale’s leading names learned?

Gary Mullineux, Managing Director, Caterforce

“Understanding your customer base and offering alternative ways of communicating has never been more important. The pandemic has forced businesses to embrace technology to ensure foodservice wholesalers can survive.

“It’s no longer good enough offering first-class customer service through personal relationships. We have to reach our new and existing customers through digital means. In order to get the communication piece right, we have to ensure our customer and product data is accurate.

“In the past 12 months, this has been a strategic priority for Caterforce and its members. Once the data is accurate, we then require the tools to understand the customer’s habits and needs, which will be achieved through the Caterforce Sales Hub, launching in April. With the uncertainty of the hospitality sector, we need a diverse customer base to minimise risk, while ensuring we remain relevant for our core customer. Accurate product and customer knowledge allows the industry to achieve this objective in an ever-changing market.”

Dawood Pervez, Managing Director, Bestway

“As the entire industry will agree, the past 12 months have been unexpected, unprecedented and unpredictable. As a business, I’m proud of the way the Bestway team have responded with agility and resilience to fast-moving consumer and business changes. This has been vital for us to continue to meet our customers’ needs.

“Working closely with our suppliers became even more of a focus when we were tested against supply shortages and when consumer panic-buying impacted heavily. Bestway became a voice for independent retailers calling on suppliers – and government – to ensure fair distribution for all.

“One of the lessons we’ve learned is that preparing for the unexpected and ensuring fair distribution on the back of crisis is the way forward – and we were rigid in our stance that we wouldn’t exploit the situation by removing promotions and increasing prices, ensuring our retailers adhered to this. We’ve been working with our suppliers on a day-to-day basis, as appropriate, to ensure stock remains available during uncertain economic conditions.”

Steve Jeavons, Purchasing Director, Fairway Foodservice

“For the industry, it has meant taking many difficult and often painful decisions to manage the challenges that have been faced. Making key decisions without meaningful information on what to expect next has become almost routine. Being agile, able and willing to change has been essential to control costs, manage stock and resources, and still maintain excellent service.

“Deliveries have become an even more essential requirement for businesses and for individuals, with wholesale developing home delivery almost overnight when traditional retail struggled with the exploding demand. Retail and wholesale categories overlap now more than they have ever done.

“Unfortunately, some businesses have not or will not survive. Suppliers, especially those who focus predominantly on foodservice, and foodservice wholesalers have lost significant volume and now have to rebuild. It will help immensely if the roadmap remains intact. It will help bring more certainty in an uncertain world and make decision-making less stressful.”

Bestway Caterforce covid-19 Dawood Pervez Fairway Foodservice Gary Mullineux Steve Jeavons