Continuing our series looking behind the scenes at some of the major suppliers to the hospitality market, we catch up with David Elder, CEO of non-food wholesaler Alliance
Q How would you describe your business?
A On the face of it, you could describe Alliance as a distributor and wholesaler, but we are so much more than that.
The reason we came to market eight years ago was our belief that no other company was delivering the kind of service, expertise and value that our industry and customers require.
We get involved in so many different ways with our customers; much more than ensuring they get what they want, when they want it.
We take part in customer project teams that develop and deliver brand standards and help to add value in terms of product and service innovations that will make profit for them and deliver real value to their customers.
Q What are the current issues facing your food service customers?
A There are many significant issues facing our customers, not least the current economic climate. We've recently seen the highest rate of food and non-food inflation for a decade or more and the whole industry is facing new challenges.
In addition to this, the seemingly never-ending spiral of fuel cost and lack of affordable investment monies is stifling innovation. Whereas I would not be so na•ve as to say throwing cash at the problem will solve it, there is clearly a need in more difficult trading times to consider investment in sensible reinvention.
Alliance is working hard to find new and creative ways in which to add value to reinvention with our customers, whether this be environmental strategies, rebranding or a host of other ideas.
Q How do you help your customers address these issues?
A We are constantly looking at the products and the categories our customers are using and by deploying behind project teams we can often come at their problems in unique and different ways. This happens by simply sourcing new ranges, or by training and ‘cost in use' initiatives.
An example of this was with one of our major hotel group customers who believed they were spending too much on chemicals.
By demonstrating that their staff were not using them properly - that is, not using the correct janitorial products to apply them - we not only managed to introduce best practice but also reduced their chemical spend by over £160,000 per year, all for an initial cost of £50,000 in new equipment, which in itself will have a lifespan of three to five years.
Q What questions do your customers ask most regularly?
A With our national groups, it is more often than not about implementing control and compliance strategies to maintain brand standards and cost performances, and with all our customers in today's market, it is always about the issues of tougher trading and differentiating to maintain value and margins.
Q What do you believe will be the next big trend in your market?
A If you had asked me this three months ago, I would have certainly said green initiatives but companies are being very careful right now.
As we saw with the organic movement 10 years ago, the majority of green initiatives come with a premium attached so this is likely to be a longer haul until the market improves or legislation dictates change.
Q Where does the company stand on green issues?
A Alliance is at the forefront of green issues and as a relatively young company we have been able to equip our business with the latest in sustainable equipment.
Examples of this are to be found in our policy on vehicles and warehouse environments, where we only use the latest technologies to drive maximum fuel advantage.
With regards to products for our customers, we were certainly at the fore, introducing sustainable and recyclable ranges as alternative options in our food packaging ranges, and we always look to give advice on equipment and goods that are environmentally friendly.
Q Long term, where is the business going?
A It is dependent on where our customers are taking us. We have a very flexible and swift reflection on our customer trends and aspirations.
Company name Alliance
Address Alliance House, Marshfield Bank, Crewe, Cheshire CW2 8UY
Tel 0844 844 4300
Websitewww.alliancenational.co.uk Size 270 staff, 8 depots
Turnover circa £50m
Area of operation UK and Europe
Products Non-food and beverage ranges
Market sectors Horeca
Product portfolio 20,000 products from glassware and crockery to paper hygiene, chemicals and kitchen equipment
MORE SUPPLIER PROFILES