Hospitality recovery poses wholesale challenge

According to the new Lumina Intelligence UK Restaurant Market Report 2021/22, the UK restaurant market is set to recover to 94% of its 2019 value in 2022

The report predicts the UK restaurant market to be worth £18.3bn in 2025.

While this is positive news indeed, the hospitality sector’s bounce back doesn’t come without challenges for the wholesale sector including rising costs, supply chain issues and staff shortages.

“We have experienced a very positive recovery across our customer base,” said Gavin Millward, MD, Country Fare, a foodservice wholesaler based in Bournemouth.

However, to meet this increasing demand Gavin recognises that pinch points remain for wholesalers. “We’re currently facing increased cost of goods from suppliers as well as reduced supplier support via marketing, advertising and promotional activity.

“We’re also faced with rising operational costs and we’re not alone. Many wholesalers will need to streamline their operations and increase minimum order quantities to help offset these increases.”

Tom Gittins, MD of buying group Confex, highlights supply chain issues as a major challenge for the sector:

“Building up a stock holding post-pandemic is a priority for wholesalers, particularly when combined with ongoing supply chain issues. To have a buffer of stock to be able to maintain service levels as demand increases is the focus for Confex and our wholesalers as we head into what is projected to be a busy Easter and Summer,” he said.

To tackle the supply chain challenges, an All Party Parliamentary Group has been formed to examine HGV driver availability and its impact on the food and drink chain over the coming weeks.

Actively working with the hospitality sector is helping Country Fare to balance out some of these challenges and support its customers at the same time.

“As experts in our field, we can help the customer choose the correct products to suit their menus. This may be guided by what is in season, is readily available or has multiple supply options,” said Gavin.

“If our customer is experiencing staff shortages, we can suggest already prepared products that are of a suitable quality. We can also offer advice on how recipes can be changed to keep costs down, such as switching from excessively expensive branded goods to own brand or tertiary brands.”

Working with foodservice customers is Gavin’s advice for fellow wholesalers: “We believe in partnering with our customers and offering support, not just sales.”

All Party Parliamentary Group on the Food and Drink Supply Chain Confex Country Fare Gavin Millward hospitality supply chain Tom Gittins