When David Field took over as managing director of Nestlé Foodservices just over a year ago he already had a clear idea of what he was taking on, having worked as a consultant to the company for a year prior to his appointment.
What he discovered as a consultant, he says, was a company with huge growth potential, but one that was not achieving all it could because it did not engage enough with its customers. One year on he has restructured the business with the aim of refocusing it on its customers and making it simpler for customers to do business with it.
“When we asked our customers whether we were customer focused they were saying ânot nearly enough’,” says Field. Also customers found it difficult to engage with the company because of its size and complex nature. “We were taking our complexities in our business to our customers and were not achieving nearly as much with them as we could,” he adds.
The changes he has introduced aim to give each customer a single point of contact who is dedicated to their channel. This is a major change because customer executives previously could have been dealing with cash and carries, delivered wholesalers, contract caterers and schools and hospitals, and as a result, says Field, could never spend enough time on any one channel to do it justice. To tackle this each of the major channels â cash and carry, delivered wholesalers and the foodservice operaters â now has a specific part of the business facing it.
The first part of the plan to be implemented was its dedicated cash and carry team, covering functions from national accounts through to field sales implementation. This has been followed up with the creation of four super regions. “Each has a regional director, and within them we have created teams to deal with national accounts, field sales, wholesaler managements and vending operators, along with a chef, so we have the complete skills set working out how to maximise the business with catering operators,” says Field. “This is how we manage the chains and institutions.”
And at the Croydon headquarters there are teams working on the company’s national accounts. Also based at Croydon is the Nescafé coffee company with a specialist team looking at how to develop the coffee systems business and they work in partnership with the main sales organisation and on the national accounts to offer customers beverage solutions. Field says a similar resource is being developed within the food team with development chefs who work with key customers developing business solutions.
Field sums up the changes saying: “We have tried to devote even more resources facing the customer, and given them clear areas of focus where before we probably asked our sales force to do everything and every channel. We will be a multi-category business still, but much more focused on certain channels. We will do all channels but by giving us a specific focus on end users, cash and carry and wholesale we can direct that resource more effectively.”
Getting closer to customers doesn’t stop with the restructuring, however. Field says in some cases developing closer links will involve business development staff working at customers’ head offices. “We are quite keen on implants or secondments. It depends on the stage of development of the relationship with the customer. We’ve done it with one major caterer and we are looking to do it with a couple of others to help them with business development.”
Ultimately, he says, the aim is to develop joint business plans with customers which will have a three-year time frame. “We are working towards much longer-term planning initiatives so we are moving away from a transactional relationship to more of a long-term relationship looking at value and profit. That has been very well received by one or two customers, but we both have to be ready for it in terms of internal disciplines and ambitions and trust â all those kinds of things.”
With the changes now in place, Field says Nestlé Foodservices will be able to double the size of the business within five years and the potential is there for even greater growth.