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Catering for Brexit?

Posted by Peter Domanski on

Is there any advice for Chefs & Caterers ahead of Brexit?

With 29th March now just days away and the Brexit road ahead is still unknown,  most small businesses (and large for that matter) have little option but to remain calm, carry on and wait for the turn of events to reveal enough real facts with which to act and make plans. The lack of clarity at this late stage is particularly galling, knowing that outcomes from Brexit are likely to significantly impact business, livelihoods and future prosperity.


 ….So little advice available

A quick google scan reveals little useful intelligence or advice to act on for planning purposes – strategic or tactical. In fact, most articles are at least a year old and posts written in the past 3 months or so are mainly from pundits bemoaning the lack of useful information on the subject.

Reading the Runes, where lie the Risks?

Take our enterprise, Chefswarehouse, it’s a new business created to provide a great service to chefs, caterers and the hospitality industry by providing best value professional equipment and supplies reliably and quickly – supported with best-in-class processes and technology. With hundreds of brands and thousands of products on our books, we too need to clarity of the road ahead and mitigate for risks that Brexit may throw up – including suppliers’ logistics, effects on demand & supply chains. We need to identify scenarios that could affect our business and customer satisfaction. Right now, we’re simply trying to read the runes and look closely at the tea leaves for any clues.

Brexit commentary for Caterers


Chefswarehouse Analysis & Conclusions?

Chefs and Caterers, at this stage we have only a few tactical pearls of wisdom to offer ahead of the Brexit event.

Current Stock Levels

As far as we can see, to date it has been business as usual with suppliers, manufacturers and wholesalers, having good levels of stock across the board – supply chains have been working well for both UK-manufactured and imported catering supplies and equipment. So, no immediate problems for the next few weeks.

Future Product Availability: Disruption to Supply Lines?

Manufacturers and wholesalers increasingly rely on JIT principles (Just in Time) to minimise on site stock levels. They hold just enough stock to satisfy their anticipated order pipelines. Consequently, any disruption to supply lines can affect some producers very quickly. High input and output UK manufacturers dependent on the smooth flow of parts and raw materials are therefore more vulnerable so stock replenishment so product output for some catering commodities could become an issue very quickly. When it comes to caterers re-ordering certain items, any delays or shortages for normal levels of consumption could be compounded by extra demand if buyers decide to lay in extra supplies to be ‘on the safe side’.

Prices increases due to fluctuation in the value of the £?

£ Sterling is currently at relatively low rate against other currencies – but it has been stable for some time. With an EU deal (or even just a delay in Brexit), we would expect an immediate strengthening of the £. Conversely, without an EU deal (hard Brexit), the £ is likely to fall further …at least in the short to medium term and the extra cost of imported kit is bound to be passed on to customers over the following months as warehouse stock is replenished. NB, wholesalers usually review their prices at the beginning of the New Financial Year starting April 6th , this year wholesalers are likely to cautiously raise prices to compensate for potential currency fluctuation.

Prudent Re-Stocking & Replacement

Buyers behaviour: Brexit, if it happens is planned for the end of March. This is inconveniently timed just before Easter and Spring holidays. Forward thinking buyers of disposables and consumables might just decide to play it safe over the next couple of weeks and order early ….just to cover themselves from potential future shortages. Not panic buying …just prudent restocking. However, as we know, even a relatively small rise in demand can lead to shortages …which in catering can be inconvenient if the weather turns out well!

Summary Advice

  1. If you are reliant on catering disposables and consumables, which could be subject to supply and / or demand-led shortages. now would be a good time to think about ordering some extra stock.
  2. If you are planning to replace or invest in equipment whose price could be sensitive to falls in the value of the £ (e.g. imported products), now would also be a good time to order – while stocks are high and there are good discounts to be had. Even if the £ rose, suppliers are slower to reduce their prices than put them up!

Good Luck planning your Brexit Parties 


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