Those cash and carries thinking that their salvation will come in the form of foodservice operators had better think again, for new research shows that it is the supermarkets that are increasingly picking up business from caterers.
Communications agency Brahm interviewed 200 key decision makers from independent pubs for the first in a new Insight Out tracking survey.
The criteria for inclusion in the survey was places where the buying decision was made by the pub owner or manager rather than being dictated from a head office.
More than a quarter of decision makers at independent pubs say they buy at least one fifth of their food and drink stock from retailers rather than wholesalers or cash and carries.
On average, 14% of all food and drink stock is purchased from retailers such as supermarkets while eight in 10 independent pub purchasers claim to use supermarkets to buy stock regularly.
Supermarkets are also a key source of information and inspiration to caterers, with 70% saying regular visits to supermarkets are useful to keep in touch with trends driving consumer tastes. “A lot of foodservice operators are looking at the retail multiples and are in awe of what they are doing,” says Bob Wood, divisional director at Brahm.
However, more than 40% of those interviewed admitted that they did not think that they spoke to their customers enough to find out what types of food they wanted.
“Even though a chef is just the other side of a wall from his customers, he does not go out and talk to them about what they like and want. He looks to a retailer to tell him what is big. For example, Tesco launches a Mexican Finest dish so therefore Mexican must be a trend. Or else he looks to manufacturers many miles away for consumer insight,” says Wood.
Almost 90% of buyers take as much interest in consumer media as trade media for menu and recipe ideas and new product information. This reinforces the importance of synergy between retail and foodservice messaging for front-of-house brands.
Many supermarkets have yet to capitalise on the opportunity to be a key supplier to foodservice, although some in coastal towns, for example, have installed catering aisles to service bed and breakfast outlets.
However, manufacturers are increasing their efforts to sell to foodservice operators as margins gained from retail customers continue to be squeezed. The research shows that three in 10 respondents receive regular visits from sales people direct from food manufacturers, with 13% saying such visits are very frequent and 18% saying they are quite frequent.