Taking on local fresh suppliers is crucial

We are in a time of uncertainty and have already seen that the delivered channel is growing at a slower rate than the cash and carries. Therefore delivered wholesalers should be aware of the behaviour of their customers and work towards improving the relationship, shopping experience and their offer.

Using insights from our Delivered Wholesale Caterer Tracking Programme, in which we spoke with 1,000 catering customers, we have identified the areas the wholesalers need to give the greatest focus to.

Currently, delivered catering customers say they source about a fifth of their total business needs from a local supplier and a further 13% from a local delivered supplier (a total of a third of their business needs sourced from local suppliers). However, our research indicates that around 40% of caterers will be using these local suppliers more in the next 12 months. By comparison, only 3% say they will use a cash and carry more.

It is therefore no surprise that the products caterers buy elsewhere rather than from their national delivered wholesaler include milk, fruit amp; veg, fresh meat and bread.

A focus on fresh and an assurance that the quality and value is as good as competing local suppliers is crucial.

Other key areas of focus for delivered catering customers in 2012 include the following:

l Caterers tell us they want to sell national brands and believe national brands improve the credibility of their outlet. With regards to own label products, most use these for products for back-of-house activities where they are not seen by customers.

l Continue to educate caterers on the top sellers across all categories. If national brands are key to them, then ensure they are up-to-date on what they are as well as the fastest growing brands. With regards to specific categories, more believe it is important to know the top sellers for categories such as beer and spirits over products such as soft drinks, crisps/snacks and confectionery.

l When catering customers are asked to rate their delivered wholesaler, “Product availability when ordering” and “accuracy of delivery” are two criteria with an average score of less than 8-out-of-10, so businesses need to focus on improving these areas.

l We asked caterers directly which improvements their delivered wholesaler could make (other than prices). “Product availability”, “accuracy of order”, “loyalty bonus/discount”, “on-time deliveries” and “a larger range of products to suit my needs” are the top five mentions.

l Invest in technology for customer convenience. The largest share of orders are placed via the phone (with most of these being calls generated by the delivered wholesaler), while, on average, only 1-in-10 orders are placed via the internet. However, many caterers (pubs/restaurants etc) will know what they need by the close of business late at night not the most convenient time to place a call with a telesales person. Online would be a convenient solution, maybe with a call-back option at a suitable time to ensure telesales staff still have the opportunity to inform the caterer of challenges with the order or special offers they should be made aware of.

l Tailor recommendations to customer needs. Most caterers are already open to recommendations from telesales staff when placing their order, but a small proportion are not so receptive. However, if recommendations were tailored to a catering customer’s specific needs (such as being based on previous purchases) then three-quarters who are not normally open to being up-sold to would welcome the recommendations.

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