Warm September

Source: Mitchells & Butlers

Pent up demand from consumers to get back to hospitality, together with decent weather has left wholesalers struggling to keep up

Foodservice wholesalers are struggling to keep up with demand as the nation flocks to al fresco hospitality venues.

Pent-up demand from consumers to get back to cafés, pubs and restaurants is outstripping supply, with wholesalers’ forecasts looking to have been too conservative ahead of the partial reopening of food and drink outlets, The Grocer understands.

One foodservice wholesaler told The Grocer that the weather, uncertainty over customer capacity for outside dining, and whether or not the public would have the confidence to return to hospitality venues so soon after restrictions eased had made forecasting “virtually impossible”.

Meanwhile, wholesalers anticipated a higher demand from customers to stock longer-life ambient and frozen categories. However, these have been largely shunned in favour of higher volumes of fresh goods.

However, shortages of salad items and fruits coming from the EU is compounding these supply issues, according to one national wholesaler.

It comes as foodservice wholesalers are trading at approximately 35% of volumes last seen in 2019.

“Wholesalers are reporting some availability challenges,” said Federation of Wholesale Distributors CEO James Bielby.

“This is driven by limited recent sales history impacting orders for some wholesalers, the difficulty of forecasting, and some shortages on fresh produce coming from the EU.

“The restart has been better than many expected and as we head towards 17 May and a fuller reopening, suppliers need to ensure foodservice wholesalers have sufficient stock to meet this increased demand.”