We spoke to Tim Adams, director of marketing and corporate sales at Bidfood, to discuss the impact of coronavirus and technology on wholesale operations.
Running a wholesale business – what have we learnt throughout the pandemic?
Over the last 12 months, we’ve learnt that partnerships can be strengthened during periods of challenge and uncertainty. We have had overwhelmingly supportive customer and supplier conversations, and everyone has really pulled together from across the industry to manage the unique challenges we have all faced during these difficult times. Long-term relationships and high levels of trust are essential in making this happen successfully, otherwise, many more customers, suppliers, and wholesalers would have suffered.
Our people have always been our greatest asset, and the past 12 months has reaffirmed this. While infrastructure and technology are incredibly important, our people have needed to move and respond at the fastest pace they have ever had to, whilst needing to be flexible, pragmatic and resilient to deal with the constantly changing landscape. Along with this, the importance of clear and timely communication around any changes has been crucial in helping us to achieve record employee engagement results, despite the pandemic.
Changing and adapting during unprecedented times:
Technology has been moving fast across foodservice and hospitality for some time, but when the pandemic hit, it did fast-track several changes as we all became so heavily reliant upon it. Inevitably our business working environment has changed hugely during the pandemic, as have many other businesses. We’ve had to learn how to adapt to new ways of working, both digitally and from home, as well as making sure Covid-secure measures are in place across our business. We continue to focus on supporting our customers to adjust and respond to the environment we operating in. Therefore we have changed how we deliver to customers, such as smaller deliveries and pack sizes available to support where needed if customer volumes have dropped. Digital communication has also accelerated massively, which is key to our ongoing engagement and support for customers.
During the pandemic, we have moulded and shaped our business to incorporate a digital focus. We have received record downloads of our new on-trend podcasts and launched virtual events such as Bidfood Kitchen (our take on ‘Saturday Kitchen’). The new ‘back to business’ sector guides have needed to be turned around at a much faster pace than usual and delivered online, and we have launched Bidfood at Home – our direct to consumer platform.
Some of our thinking has had to be more short-term than we are used to, but this has created an environment where creativity, empowerment and autonomy have flourished, as our people have really wanted to own the Bidfood response to the pandemic.
Transformational trends in wholesale:
Tech trends across the industry are incredibly varied, from food-tech trends such as data and traceability to hospitality tech trends that focus more on the customer experience, be that contactless payment, online table reservations or delivery apps.
The areas of technological change that are paving the way for us as a business are order stock management platforms and allergen recipe and menu management systems which are evolving to align with the impending Natasha’s Law. We are also exploring areas of growing interest like traceability and blockchain.
We are putting a lot of focus into technology to ensure we are providing the best possible customer experience. We also provide our teams with the best tech to help support them when carrying out their jobs, such as our driver handheld devices and routing software.
Read more: Bidfood reveals its 2021 foodservice trends
Helpful tips and advice:
- Be agile. Don’t disregard all long-term planning, but certainly be prepared to adapt and adjust short-term to whatever the changing landscape throws at you.
- Social media and the digital landscape are incredibly powerful ways of keeping in touch with customers. Especially where physical, face-to-face interaction is not possible.
- Now (and post-Covid) is the time for the whole industry to work together. So, whatever challenges you face, reach out to those who may be able to help – you will probably find they are far more receptive than you expected, and it can be a great way to share ideas and practise to better both businesses.
- Wherever possible, build long-term, sustainable and strong partnerships with customers and suppliers that you know will take you through the tough times as well as the good.