Foodservice operators aren’t just buying stock from supermarkets. They look to them for inspiration too says Siân Harrington

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.
  • The Grocer is to hold its first conference on foodservice and retail in conjunction with sister William Reed division Martin Information. The Future for Retail and Foodservice: a Marriage of Convenience will be held on February 8 at the Cavendish Conference Centre, London. For details call Emma Cuthbertson on 01293 610255, e-mail or turn to the inside back cover of this issue.

Pub Grub
>>supermarkets are trendsetters
  • More than three quarters (78%) of decision makers at independent pubs use supermarkets for buying stock
  • Some 27% buy at least one fifth of stock from retailers
  • Seven in 10 decision-makers regularly visit supermarkets to keep up with trends driving consumer tastes
  • Personal contact is most likely to have an influence, with 87% speaking to wholesaler telesales operators at least once a week and 70% finding operators influential when placing an order
  • Slightly more than half of respondents have access to the internet. They spend on average half an hour each week researching new products, recipe ideas and inspiration for menus
  • Only 37% of decision-makers in independent pubs spend more time reading wholesaler publications than the trade press