The delivered wholesaler offers care homes a number of advantages over their local cash and carry when it comes to catering purchases
“A great wholesaler will not only provide convenience, choice and value to its customers, but will also be able to add value in the form of insight, advice, training, industry knowledge and sector expertise. It’s the added value that separates a good wholesaler from a cash and carry.” Gwaine Cook, Healthcare Business Development Controller at Bidfood, seems to have hit the nail on the head.
He continues: “Support and guidance is a key example of the added value that Bidfood offers. Our team of development chefs present to care homes on how to cater specifically for residents – be that sharing tips on grazing options for dementia sufferers who may struggle to sit down at mealtimes, or training on food fortification. Care home caterers can learn a lot from this hands-on approach; discussing new concepts can help spark ideas that they may not have thought about before.”
Additionally, Bidfood’s menu solutions offer care homes four weeks of recipe and menu ideas, which can be used
as a rolling programme or as a tool
to pick and choose from. All these recipes are nutritionally analysed so care home chefs can feel confident about the nutritional value of every dish
At Brakes, Brand Director Jennie Fisher takes up the added value theme, saying: “When it comes to adding value this is really about understanding what the customer actually needs from us. For example, when it became a legal requirement for establishments serving food to be able to respond to customer allergen queries it was, understandably, a daunting prospect for many of our customers. So we launched an online tool called BRAN (Brakes recipe, allergen and nutrition tool) which allows our customers to create recipe cards using our product range, and which then instantly shows them a list of allergens present in those recipes. This makes a potentially complex task very simple and provides an easy way for customers to comply with the regulations.
“In addition, we’ve invested in creating a market-leading distribution network, allowing us to provide great customer service, with a particular focus on our approach to sustainability, which is important to many of our customers. This has seen Brakes net the MSC’s Fish Supplier of Year for the fourth year running, as well as the Greener Path Award for Landfill Diversion, recognising our core value of ‘doing the right thing’.”
Also helping customers become greener is Thomas Ridley – which is pleased to offer assistance with packaging and waste recycling, and disposal of waste cooking oil – and Multi-Channel Marketing Manager Darren Osborn agrees that a good delivered wholesaler will offer far more than just the delivery of products.
“At Thomas Ridley we aim to work with our customers, especially those within the healthcare and education sectors, on elements such as menu development and nutritional wellbeing. Our unique ‘Key2Nutrients’ online software system (K2N), for example, helps customers with planning of meals to ensure that care home caterers have the correct nutritional values on the meals they serve. The system is pre-populated with over 4,000 ingredients and contains the full McChance and Widdowson database of nutritional values, along with hundreds of recipe ideas and sample menu plans.
“The cash and carry does still have a place and there is nothing wrong in scheduling in regular visits,” adds Darren, “however for establishments where food is such a crucial part of their offering, partnering with a delivered wholesaler that offers so much more than a delivery service is the only way forward.”
A big plus is that delivered wholesalers are an extremely effective way for care home caterers to ensure that the products they require day to day are regularly received without the need to leave the kitchen. Now, JJ Food Service is making the shopping process even easier by becoming the first UK wholesaler to introduce fingerprint ID and a card scanning function to its App.
With the new touch ID, customers can log in using fingerprint recognition whereas previously users needed to physically type in their email and password. “This adds a new level of convenience to shopping with us,” says Mushtaque Ahmed, COO at JJ Food Service. Once the customer has completed their shop, they can checkout by scanning their card with their mobile device instead of manually entering the card details.
With food safety high on the agenda of every care home the use of temperature controlled vehicles will ensure frozen and chilled goods are maintained in optimum condition – not something that can be relied upon if goods are loaded into the back of Chef’s car after a trip to the cash and carry.
“Wholesalers are a much more reliable source to purchase products which require specialist care in terms of storage and transportation. Caterers should choose wholesalers that will deliver their purchased goods safely and proficiently,” says Christina Veal, Director at New Forest Ice Cream.
“New Forest Ice Cream uses a network of wholesalers around the country who are experts in their field. This ensures our ice cream is consistently delivered to the required site as expected and allows us to logistically manage national distribution, supplying ice cream to customers throughout the industry – and caterers can expect quality service every time. We can ensure that our ice cream remains frozen at all times because our chosen wholesalers meet strict storage regulations and deliver using the latest, highly insulated transport designed especially for delivering frozen produce.”
Having the right fleet available to manage timely deliveries is key to the wholesaler’s superior offer. Creed Foodservice, for example, opened a third distribution centre earlier this year to further strengthen its infrastructure and better service the strong care sector in the south east. Fifteen vehicles are based at the depot in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire delivering approximately 6,000 items a day through 13 delivery routes.
In addition to Creed’s head office and distribution centre in Staverton, Gloucestershire (55,00sq ft) and distribution centre in Ilkeston, Derbyshire (35,000sq ft), High Wycombe (27,300sq ft) now also supplies chefs and caterers with products across the frozen, chilled, grocery, fresh produce, meats and non-food categories.
Bidfood’s Gwaine Child adds his voice: “The key benefit of using a national wholesaler is the breadth of range, the consistency of delivery and the product delivery – we offer next day delivery on over 15,000 products, which is not something care homes would expect to find on a local level.
“However, working with a national wholesaler doesn’t mean losing local integrity. At Bidfood, each of our depots operates as a local business, with a local feel and local knowledge.”
And Thomas Ridley’s Darren Osborn agrees that the ability to supply local producers is important: “We are often asked for specific locally produced sausages and even the odd locally brewed beer, which helps keep residents happy,” he says.
Even the personal touch need not be lost with a national wholesaler, when sector-specific members of staff are encouraged to go out and visit customers. Danny Silcock, Brakes Development Chef for Healthcare, likes nothing better than to be invited into a care home to cook for a group of residents, which can be a great help in gauging what type of meals will go down best.
“It’s a cost sensitive sector. Most of our care home customers cook from scratch because they can’t afford to buy-in ready made,” he says. “I can help by coming up with some ideas for different dishes to ring the changes for different seasons, as well as tips on making the most of the cheaper cuts of meat, which just need slower cooking, and how to utilize every part of the animal so there’s no wastage.” Help to produce appetizing texture modified meals and ideas for food-based activities are also available.
“We can assist the care home caterer in so many ways,” says Danny. “They just need to be open with me about what they want and I will try and give them exactly that.”
But does all this added value service come at a price, one wonders?
In your choice of wholesaler, as with many things in life, cost isn’t everything. “Although list price can give a good indication of the wholesaler to choose, the pricing may not be as clear as it first seems,” says Mike Hardman, Online Manager, Alliance. “Many wholesalers work on an account basis. That is to say that if a customer opens a trading account then they are likely to receive an even more competitive pricelist.
“However, it is worth noting that any decision shouldn’t be based solely on price, whether list price, account price or promotional price,” continues Mike. “It is important to identify reliability, expertise and service as adding value and therefore customers should look
at the multi-faceted benefits of a specific delivered wholesaler. It may be the case that one provider is less expensive than another but without consistent and efficient delivery, or quality service to match, they’ll soon fall short of expectation.”
You have been warned!