On-site training from wholesalers is giving on-trade customers a competitive edge, writes NIKKI ALLEN
Times aren’t easy for on-trade and foodservice outlets, from top-end restaurants to the good old local, with 18 pubs going out of business every week in 2012, according to research from Camra. Suppliers have been doing their bit to help bolster the market: Tennent Caledonian, for example, has frozen wholesale prices across its brands for hotels, pubs and clubs this year, in a bid to help on-trade operators improve costs.
The company’s managing director, John Gilligan, explains: “These are tough times for the on-trade and we want to support the industry where we can, helping operators control their costs,
develop their businesses and build responsible drinking environments for their customers.”
Where suppliers are leading the way in championing the industry, wholesalers are beginning to follow. Retail club-style promotions, deals and discounts are important ways to entice independent retailers into your depot. However, for catering and on-trade customers, engagement spans far beyond just price.
Some food and drink wholesalers with a large on-trade customer base have already clocked on to this need for deeper engagement. As a result, these innovative businesses are creating whole packages of extras for their customers as standard parts of their service offerings. These include everything from training bar staff how to make the perfect cocktail to helping restaurants design a great looking menu.
HOW TO INCREASE CUSTOMER LOYALTY
- ON-SITE TRAINING: Consider running training programmes in-depot on topics such as matching wine with food and cocktail-making.
- GET SUPPLIER SUPPORT: Matthew Clark joined forces with Britvic to offer customers £5,000 worth of equipment – what more could suppliers be doing to help you?
- GET TO KNOW YOUR ON-TRADE CUSTOMERS: Find out what they need from you and how you can support them better in growing their businesses.
- ADDED-VALUE EXTRAS: hink about the services you can provide your customers that will help them through challenging times, including help with designing menus and information about legislation.
- PASS ON DEALS: Make sure your products remain competitive by taking advantage of supplier promotions,
- point-of-sale and other materials.
One wholesaler with an on-trade customer base of 5,000 – Manchester-based distributor LWC Drinks – is boosting loyalty in a big way with its vast range of free-of-charge, industry-recognised training courses. Ebrahim Mukadam, the wholesaler’s managing director, explains: “We offer a full range of training on all products, such as wine, to help our customers’ staff become more knowledgeable and confident about the wines they are pouring.”
LWC is also offering customers on-site training in cocktail-making, pointing out that cocktails are enjoying a resurgence that could give bar owners a welcome high gross profit at the same time.
“A few simple basics taught to customers and their team on-site will give them confidence and that all-important edge over the competition,” says Mukadam.
The company also offers an extensive range of discounts and promotions throughout the year on its full range of products – all of which are helping the company grow both loyalty and sales.
Meanwhile, a wholesaler that is leading the way with a host of extra benefits for customers is drinks giant Matthew Clark. “We supply over 4,000 drink products, including wine, spirits, beers, cider and soft drinks, to on-trade outlets including pubs, hotels, style bars and restaurants,” says the company’s retail marketing manager Ben Taylor.
“We want to offer customers more than just drink products, which is why we have joined forces with Flow, a hospitality training-provider, and S4 Labour, a specialist in staff rotation, to offer them advice and support.”
The wholesaler also offers its customers marketing plans, product advice, promotions, design support and menu suggestions, all as part of its standard package of services for pubs, bars and restaurants.
“For example,” says Taylor, “we have a team of designers who use the latest software to design bespoke menus for our customers’ venues. We also offer lots of advice and tips, such as how to create the perfect wine list.”
Most recently, the wholesaler has joined forces with drinks supplier Britvic for a campaign that offers customers £5,000 of equipment for their outlets. All of these initiatives help the wholesaler to stand out and suggests to customers that it will go the extra mile to help their businesses succeed, according to Taylor.
Birmingham-based Pricemark UK, a drinks specialist wholesaler, provides its customers with a comprehensive guide to boosting the sales of wines and spirits in the on-trade, including complex topics such as legislation, packaging and customer profiles – again, all entirely
free of charge.
And Landmark Wholesale member and on-trade wholesaler Hall’s Drinks is bringing another imaginative bonus to its customers. The north west-based distributor, which delivers beer, wine and spirits to restaurants, bars, pubs and clubs in Greater Manchester, North Wales and Shropshire, has a team available to help event-caterers with the alcohol they need at parties, shows and weddings.
Whether your depot mainly deals with on-trade customers or has just a handful compared to your off-trade contingency, offering a few educational extras is a sure-fire way to boost their loyalty – and grow your sales.