Understanding customers’ needs is key


Steve Dixon, foodservice buying controller of Today’s Group, challenged the conference attendees to “understand how to service and gain an understanding of how our very broad range of wholesalers need help to move their business onwards and upwards”.

Dixon added that it didn’t matter if the caterer buying the products was a celebrity chef or someone running a B amp;B, they can’t meet the needs of the consumer if one part of a seven part recipe is missing. He said that Today’s needs to offer flexibility of ranges to a variety of differing wholesaler sizes, and what might be core for one is fringe for another. “Put simply, if our wholesaler customers want it, the member has to deliver whatever the volume just to retain the business.”

He acknowledged that availability remains an area of improvement for Today’s and asked for help from manufactures to improve forecasting and availability. “Service levels cannot be down to the wholesaler taking excess stocks to meet high minimum drops. I am sure we have wholesalers who would help with pilot schemes of how we can work better together without filling our depots with loads of stock. At the same time, suppliers need to be aware that we have potentially 240 delivery points and continually increasing minimum drops might make manufactures more efficient but wholesalers have neither the space nor the cash to be continually tied up with excess stocks.”

Allen Watts, executive director of Caterforce, said: “We are delivered wholesalers so do not treat us like cash and carries.” He added that Caterforce members were offering telesales calls through to 1am and the delivery service was flexible to suit the customer’s needs, with some deliveries twice a day and some over the weekend.

To be effective in this, though, Watts said: “We require what we order being delivered on time and in full.” And he echoed Dixon’s comments by saying that reasonable sized minimum orders were needed without significant cost penalties.

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