Darren Labbett is the managing director of Woods Foodservice
What have you learnt from the past 12 months from the perspective of running a wholesale operation?
I have learnt that the foodservice/wholesale food suppliers are largely forgotten by Parliament and everybody. It seems that because we are not on the glamourous front line and highly recognisable but are hidden away on industrial estates that we are completely overlooked. I think some serious PR needs to be done to improve our public image.
I have also learnt that complacency is not an option and we must ensure we diversify and reinvest profit to ensure not only survival but being in a position to take advantage of any opportunities that arise from any future economic crisis.
How has your business changed since the pandemic hit?
During the first lockdown period a very reputable fresh produce company went into administration. This company supplied a large amount of our customers. I decided to use this opportunity to replace some of our lost dry stores turnover with fresh produce. We offered the same range of products and services and recruited many of the staff from this company. I am glad to say that the project has been a great success.
We also used the extra time we have had during the lock- down periods to completely restructure our staff hierarchy, our operational procedures and our fleet. This has resulted in a much more efficient operation but at the same time will improve service levels to our customers. We also used the time to become officially certified as carbon neutral.
As we hopefully head into a post-Covid world, what advice/tips can you offer from what you have experienced?
Is to have two mindsets. Yes obviously priority one is to focus on keeping losses to a minimum and campaigning government for financial aid during the lock-down periods. However, you must remain positive and ensure you have a plan in place so that when hospitality re-opens you are ready with stock and operationally.