The wholesale hero

ELIT ROWLAND spent a day with JJ Food Service’s Rafal Blangiewicz to see what great drivers are made of

He’s strong, systematic and terribly polite – that’s what makes Rafal Blangiewicz so good at his job. He unloads tens of pallets without breaking a sweat, can triple-check stock in the blink of an eye and is gifted with a precision for trolley stacking. This driver’s no-nonsense


Attention to detail: Ensure ‘special items’ are loaded on the truck before starting a shift. Check all stock before you dispatch to customers, then again when you are with them.



approach is winning loyalty from customers, protecting his vehicle and contents, and banking good business for his boss. Here’s what I learnt from my day with him.

Triple checks

Attention to detail is critical and Blangiewicz carries out three checks for each customer’s order. The first happens before we even set off – it’s a ‘special items’ check for expensive products like alcohol and tobacco. Even coffee is considered ‘special’, with a 6x1kg tub (box) of Lavazza fetching close to £60. The second check happens when we get to the customer: Blangiewicz cross-references what’s on the pallet against the receipt. The final check happens in front of the customer, mainly for his or her benefit. With such a thorough process in place, it’s no surprise we had no missing ­products.

The right tools

A handheld computer helps Blangiewicz to organise all his visits, listing location and useful customer preferences. “This kind of information is very important,” explains Blangiewicz. “I’ve had customers shout at me in the past for delivering to the front of the shop, instead of the back.”

This is a common mistake made by new drivers, so the computer


Use technology: A hand-held computer can help to organise an efficient route, as well as highlight important customer preferences.



comes in particularly handy. It also produces an itemised list for Blangiewicz to cross-reference against his stock and a receipt for the customer. Any changes to the order are made automatically, so there’s no need for additional paper invoicing or credit notes.

It’s good to give back

While it’s nice to get free beverages from customers and in Blangiewicz’s case, even a few kebabs, it’s important not to take this generosity for granted.

“It’s nice to get complimentary beverages, but I occasionally drop something in the ‘tips’ pot.” This is important, especially when you get through as many cups as Blangiewicz does.
“I drink about 10 cups of coffee a day, but it’s quite weak. Hopefully, it’s not that bad for my health – it’s nothing like Polish coffee.”

Money matters

With counterfeit notes and even home-made pound coins popping up now and again, Blangiewicz makes sure he checks all his customers’ payments.

“You have to keep your eyes open,” he says. “And don’t feel bad about checking it in front of them – it’s not necessarily your customers’ fault. They may have been given counterfeit money.”


Safety first: Bank every £1,000 at the post office and leave valuables out of sight. Thieves will smash windows for as little as a few pound coins.



Blangiewicz checks bank notes in the usual way but with coins, you need to be extra diligent. “Home-made coins are usually lighter and softer to touch – you just have to pay attention.”

Safety first

When you’re delivering high-value goods and you’re working alone, it’s easy to be seen as a target, but Blangiewicz takes no chances. He never leaves his vehicle unattended unless it’s fully locked and secured.

And when you’re carrying around £6,000 worth of product, it’s important to pay regular visits to the bank. Whenever Blangiewicz hits £1,000, he takes it to his nearest post office.

Punctuality and politeness

One of the commonest complaints from catering customers about their delivered wholesaler is lateness, so it’s not surprise that Blangiewicz’s punctuality is praised by every customer we visit.


Punctuality and politeness: A call to say you are running late maintains good relationships with customers, who agree that politeness from a driver can make up for a late delivery.



Russell Brooks, chef manager at Chace Community School in Enfield, says: “We also use Brakes but JJ is better at guaranteeing what time the delivery arrives. If we put an order in at 3pm, we’ll get it the next day before 7pm. If we order online, we can choose a three-hour gap that suits us.”

Blangiewicz says, “If I’m running late, I’ll always call and let customers know.” The biggest challenge for delivered wholesalers, he says, is keeping the customers happy. “Ultimately, that can be down to the driver.”

Smiles all round

After our eight-hour day, Blangiewicz is still smiling. I even watch him dispatch 75 cases of alcohol and frozen sea food in minutes, fuelled by nothing other than a sandwich for breakfast, around 10 coffees and a genuine passion for what he does.

“I really enjoy driving and meeting new people – you can’t do what we do unless you have
a real passion for it.” And it’s this attitude that makes him so popular.

Mula and Annette, managers at Cyprus Diner, say, “Rafal is always on time, friendly and happy. We don’t always get the same driver, but if we did, we’d want it to be him.”

When I ask Blangiewicz how he manages to keep his spirits high after a long day, he tells me, “As long as I’ve got two arms, two legs and one head, what’s there not to be happy about?”


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