Paul Hill finds out how JJ Foodservice is operating during the coronavirus crisis
Delivering from 11 branches around the UK across a fast-growing and variety of sectors, JJ Foodservice has slowly become one of the most tech-savvy, forward-thinking wholesalers in the country.
Founded by restaurant-owner Mustafa Kiamil in 1988, the Enfield-headquartered company is a leading pioneer of digital within wholesale. “In 2009, we became the first wholesaler to launch an online ordering portal that enabled customers to order via the website for collection or delivery,” explains chief operating officer Mushtaque Ahmed. “Within a year, online orders accounted for 30% of sales.”
He adds that the website now uses machine-learning technology to predict basket items and make accurate, data-led recommendations on what customers are likely to purchase.
He says: “These functions account for an average of 20% of basket spend. Predictive ordering is also available via the JJ App, which has been downloaded more than 25,000 times.
“Today, online orders have increased to 60%, and it’s still growing.”
The company has also lent its technological expertise to support its customers, with sister business FOODit helping to build restaurant websites for caterers and aid them in SEO strategies. “In the first six weeks of 2019, total revenue for FOODit customers was up 5.8% on the same period in the previous year,” Ahmed explains.
Recent financials show a 14% increase in turnover from April 2019 to December 2019, compared with the same period the previous year. The wholesaler has seen its orders go up by 13% and the number of cases increase by 10%.
But as it has for every foodservice business, the coronavirus pandemic has had a massive impact on how JJ Foodservice operates.
The company has been forced to modify its frameworks to deal with the unique crisis the world finds itself in.
This has involved purchasing 12 new smaller vehicles to support a move to a B2C model in which the company claims to get household essentials out to London-based customers on the same day of order, providing they checkout before 11am on weekdays.
Head of operations Sedat Kaan Hendekli says: “In addition to the next-day delivery service, we are excited to launch a same-day service.
“Orders placed between midnight and 11am, Monday to Friday, from our Enfield, Dagenham and Sidcup branches will be received on the same day.
“Some supermarkets can only fulfil 10% of orders – we can fulfil 100% and now we can do it in record time.”
Following the decision to serve the public, JJ Foodservice then launched a household essentials range to provide smaller pack sizes of fresh fruits, vegetables and meats alongside other key grocery products.
Furthermore, it is offering a fast-track ‘Just for Heroes’ service for NHS, police and fire brigade staff.
This allows all emergency service staff to be served first when they visit a branch and show their work ID.
“NHS staff and emergency services across the UK are working tirelessly to cope with and prepare for the demands of the coronavirus outbreak,” says Terry Larkin, group general manager. “They are our heroes and we want to support them.”
Pre-Covid-19, the company had set its sights on expansion into west London as well as outside the capital, with an official announcement stating its plans to acquire more properties.
“We’re ready to grow – but our biggest challenge is finding suitable freehold sites,” Larkin said in January. “We are urging anyone with a warehouse between 20,000sq ft and 50,000sq ft in west London to get in touch.”
These plans may have been placed on the back-burner for now, but when the foodservice sector returns to normality, don’t be surprised if JJ Foodservice continues on its upwards trajectory.