Foodservice craving any normality – Coral Rose

New normal or same old normal, who cares? At this point most of us in foodservice distribution would settle for any kind of normal at all.

We can’t simply brush aside the troubles of the past year. Many of FWD’s members have seen colleagues and friends lose their jobs to the pandemic. Some, tragically, have lost their lives. Smaller businesses have poured cash reserves into staying afloat these past 15 months and without that buffer – built up over years, generations even – they are still very vulnerable and limited in how quickly they can grow again. With their customers in exactly the same position, they’re going to need some sympathy and understanding from the supplier community.

The ‘normal’ we’re now experiencing is one where our hospitality customers who are open are operating well below full capacity, while others are keeping their doors shut until they feel they can trade profitably. We’re working with social-distancing restrictions and a driver shortage to add another level of challenge and complication. And we’re still waiting for the promised share of a £1.5 billion business rates relief fund that the government announced it had earmarked for us back in March.

The quickest way back to profitability is going to be through collaboration. Suppliers, wholesalers and caterers need to keep talking, as they have done over the past year. Some things have changed in the market and in consumer behavior, while we’ve been focusing our attention elsewhere. New competitors are hovering and offering new options in delivery in both grocery and prepared meals, and there’s some evidence to suggest that ‘eating out at home’ is a trend we should all keep an eye on. From FWD’s point of view, as the sector’s eyes, ears and voice in Westminster, there’s challenging new policy coming our way – particularly in health and sustainability.

Most of us would probably never have believed a year ago we’d miss going into an office, but there is something irreplaceable about those face-to-face dialogues. On the horizon we have the FWD conference in October, bringing wholesale together for the first time in two years and beyond that the prospect of a proper celebration at the Gold Medals in November.

In the absence of live events, FWD’s monthly Bringing Wholesale Together webinars and the Women in Wholesale Speed Mentoring event were well attended and well received. Wholesalers have found new ways to hold their trade shows and, from an industry sector that hasn’t always been the quickest to adopt new technologies, we’ve seen some pretty clever new digital structures for engaging customers and enhancing orders.

I’m particularly proud of how the wholesale channel has embraced the Women in Wholesale programme, with so many contributing to improving not only diversity and opportunity in our workplaces, but also the mental wellbeing of wholesale people and flexibility in how, where and when we work.

On behalf of FWD I want to thank everyone who has advised, informed and guided your representative body over the past year. Your help is invaluable and the team hope they have helped you in return. We wish you a successful summer, a steady transition back to full trade.

Coral Rose coronavirus Country Range Group covid-19 Foodservice FWD Government hospitality