Foodservice operators switching emphasis is a positive, says TWC’s Tanya Pepin.

As Bidfood and JJ Food Service launch direct-to-consumer home delivery services, Tanya Pepin, managing director of data insight specialist TWC, considers the switch in focus by different types of foodservice operators.

What will consumers make of big pack sizes – products packaged in a way never seen before in their homes and bearing little resemblance to retail? Will these packs cause confusion? Will consumers feel they are not getting what they ordered? Will they have room to house large catering packs, or mini sacks of daily staple ingredients? Will they be able to add-to or edit their orders and how do they feel about minimum spends of up to £100 per order – all with payment in advance?

Has consumer behaviour been so disrupted by empty shelves and queues in the mults that a complete paradigm shift has taken place? Maybe large pack sizes are seen as a benefit and ‘hang the cost’ – no need to go out for food supplies for at least six weeks!

For many, the consideration of space and cost will win out against pack size, which they may (or may not) even need.

The media is full of independent and multi-site catering establishments that are struggling, with many laying off workers and closing their doors. Some entrepreneurial outlets are switching to B2C models – primarily home delivery or take-away meals, even offering take-away drinks and cocktails. Will this be enough to secure their survival?

In my own home village, we are seeing further innovation from our local pub – innovation which could also provide a safety net for pub and foodservice operators if they work hand in hand to meet a very real and present market need. It’s an option that potentially mobilises pubs and restaurants, which are right now left out in the cold.

What the pub is doing is straightforward but nonetheless eminently sensible. In an overnight transformation, they have redeployed their premises into take-away services and a delicatessen/food retail site, providing an essential grocery/community service along with high-end deli products. Customers can buy meals to take away, products and ingredients which have been broken down into manageable sizes, presented in terrines and farm-shop style counters, to be sold or delivered in home packs. Their licence means that they are also offering premium spirits and wines to complete the at-home dining occasion.

It’s a win for the pub, which is trading well (and maintaining margin), and it is also a win for its wholesale partner who has a new route to market.

But, what of the likely impact on the local community store? With many retailers struggling to meet local demand, and working flat out to keep shelves stocked with basic groceries and household lines, it could be a highly complementary service and, without eroding store revenue, could generate enough footfall for the pub to keep it profitable and in business for when the country emerges from the current guidelines.

It would certainly give sites an effective use of their inventory and provide a sensible and imaginative way to break down pack sizes and sell chilled and frozen categories into portions and in a way that the consumer knows, understands and suits their shopping basket.

Whilst in effect, we’re looking at ‘poacher turned gamekeeper’, surely it has to be a positive move to repurpose the resources of the foodservice sector – from farm to fork – to support the nation’s needs in time of crisis.

I for one will be heading down to the pub as supplies run low. For our village, it’s a great initiative that supports and protects our local services (none of us want to see our local pub disappear), whilst also supporting foodservice wholesalers who are looking to reinvent their models. It could provide a valuable lifeline for us all.

Tel: TWC (01908) 920602