Investing in the future

Creed Catering Supplies is set to top pound;20m turnover for the first time this year, but managing director Chris Creed is not ready to rest on his laurels and is already investing to support further growth.

Last month saw the completion of a new pound;250,000 development trebling the company’s chilled capacity and providing a dedicated butchery and packing plant.

Creed says the building will enable the company to satisfy increased demand for chilled products and provides spare capacity for future expansion. The company has also been investigating developing links with local producers, which would involve using more chilled space.

Creed says there are many potential benefits to providing local produce, such as increasing customer demand, but it is also a challenging area. “Fresh food is highly regulated and we need to be satisfied that suppliers are able to tick all the boxes,” he says.

The state of the art butchery department won praise from the authorities. John Hukku, veterinary hygiene adviser for the Food Standards Agency, commented: “This is the best construction I have seen for many a year and will be a model of its kind for a cutting plant for 2006.”

Stephen Creed, who is in charge of the department, says orders can be placed up to 2pm for next day delivery. “Having our own plant also means we can prepare bespoke orders for quantity, weight or size,” he says. Beef and pork are all locally sourced as is most poultry, and all poultry is British. Codes attached to every piece of meat provide complete traceability, adds Stephen.

A novel feature of the butchery room is the CCTV camera in one corner. Like others it can be used for security purposes, but it will also be used to beam pictures through to demonstrations for customers, either at Creed’s site at Staverton, near Cheltenham, or for the sales team who will be able to pick up real-time coverage on their laptops via the internet.

Chris Creed believes it is also important to invest in his 120 staff. “It’s not just about pay, but facilities as well,” he says. This means giving staff the latest IT equipment to work with, and providing an air conditioned staff room equipped with arm chairs and a kitchen, and even purpose-built shelters outside the buildings for smokers. “A fantastic staff room pays for itself if you retain staff and don’t have the expense of recruiting and training new people,” he says.

Another crucial aspect of his Features > Business, according to Chris, is the company’s membership of the Country Range Group. He was one of the founders of the 16-strong group and says membership brings numerous benefits. The group brings enhanced buying power, he says, but it also has great credibility in the market, a long-term brand, and a lot of support from suppliers. In addition it helps in marketing the company, and Chris says he benefits a lot from contact with other members of the group.

With its four depots stretching from Cheltenham across to South Wales the group’s 2,300 customers stretch from Swansea in the west across to Milton Keynes, and from Wolverhampton down towards the south coast. It runs a 24-hour operation six days a week and runs 28 multi-temperature vehicles.

While the Country Range Group’s business is split fairly evenly between the profit and cost sectors, says Chris, his business is closer to 65% in the cost sector.

He says one of the benefits his business can offer clients, compared with the giants of the foodservice sector, is commitment and involvement from senior people in the business. “It gives us a greater understanding of their Features > Business, but also means they have more understanding about us. When they understand our business then there is a better relationship.”

Mindful of the investment he is making in his Features > Business, Chris is impatient with some suppliers who he feels do not understand the foodservice market adequately, and do not give wholesalers sufficient support. “There are some very good companies” he says, “but suppliers must understand that we need to invest in the market, and they need to give us the margin to enable us to do that.”

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