Time to get your wellies on
20 February, 2013
With food prices continuing to climb and consumers demanding more, not less, quality, isn’t it time that the eating-out market took a much firmer grip of its food supply chain?
And yes, I haven’t even mentioned the horsemeat fiasco yet.
The spotlight might be focused on the retailers, but pub, restaurant, fast food and coffee shop operators should perhaps all be taking a long, hard look at their sourcing policies and asking themselves if they really understand every facet of what is becoming an increasingly complex and vital area.
It’s not just a job for the buyers, but everyone from the boardroom down. Whichever way you look at it, it’s that important.
While trips to vineyards and breweries are great fun, when was the last time you pulled on your wellies to stand in a cold, damp field inspecting the cows or cabbages? When was the last time you walked round the warehouse of your main supplier to see the deliveries going out on the road, as I did just before Christmas at Reynolds’ impressive facility by the M25 in Waltham Cross?
And when was the last time a supplier conversation wasn’t primarily about price?
The horse-in-burgers row should have been a wake-up call for everyone in the food business, and a prompt for the catering industry in particular to reconnect with the people producing the raw ingredients they
prepare and serve to their guests—and to take real ownership of the much talked about farm-to-fork journey.
The simple question is: “Do I take as much care about the food coming into the kitchen as the food going out to my customers?”
There are wider issues at stake here than just rogue meat traders. As
Peach Report’s own Business Leaders Survey rightly showed, rising food costs are now a major external concern for operators, ahead of VAT, rents and government cuts, with 35% of senior executives saying they are now ‘very concerned’ about the issue.
As David Read, ceo of supply chain consultancy Prestige Purchasing, has been saying, against a general background of food inflation protein prices are going through the roof and are set to stay there. The long-term sustainability of meat production is going to be a major global challenge, which is not only going to make meat look expensive on menus, but will change the way people consume.
The financial imperative to find efficiencies and reconfigure menus is there. But that also has to be set against the fact that consumers continue to place ‘food quality’ as the main reason for choosing where to eat out, ahead of ‘value’.
Why that’s important is that operators, again as the Business Leaders’ Survey showed, tend to believe that ‘value’ is more important to consumers. It’s not.
As the Peach BrandTrack consumer research has consistently shown, being seen as passionate about quality is closely linked to being perceived as both ‘fresh’ and ‘healthy’ in customers’ minds.
That’s also why it is perhaps a little disappointing that less than 10% of senior executives in this sector think sourcing, provenance, healthy options and sustainability will be important for consumers in choosing where they eat.
While value will become more important, quality looks like remaining paramount. So getting the quality/value equation right is vital both at the consumer and sourcing ends of the process.
It might just be time to launch a “Get to know a farmer” initiative—sponsored perhaps by Hunters. Thoughts?
Follow Peter Martin on Twitter @peterm4rtin