Bestway Wholesale, the UK’s largest independent food and drink retailer, is set to ramp up its Leeds operations in the near future, as it responds to the city’s potential for growth.
A large part of that will come from its rapidly expanding catering arm, BB Foodservice - being a one stop shop for restaurants, bars, pubs and clubs - it’s one of the reasons Bestway Wholesale is the main sponsor of this year’s Yorkshire Evening Post dining industry Oliver Awards.
The company, which has a turnover of £2.3bn a year, has already responded to shifting customer demands, offering round-the-clock ordering and next day deliveries for caterers.
Jason Longstaff is general manager at the company’s Stourton depot, a vast 125,000 sq ft warehouse stocking over 23,000 lines, including everything from 5kg packs of chicken and 20 litre drums of cooking oil to wines and spirits and fresh fruit and veg, frozen foods and non-food cleaning products - not to mention 51 different kinds of gin.
Leeds-born Jason, 47, has worked for the company for 25 years, starting out on the tills and working his way up, and he knows the business inside out.
I meet him at the company’s Stourton depot and, between greeting several customers by their first names, he shows me around the warehouse. He’s enthusiastic about the potential their services and Leeds in general.
“The potential here is huge,” says the former professional footballer and semi-pro rugby player (he signed for Leeds aged 16 under Howard Wilkinson and after five years, signed for Hunslet RL Club and incidentally, he remains the only person to play football and rugby professionally at Elland Road).
“The city is growing so fast, the football team has the chance of going into the Premiership, they’re sat at the top of the league and that’s where we want Bestway Wholesale and our Bestway and Batleys depots too.
“We can get there because we offer great service, a great range, competitive pricing and convenient location five minutes from the city centre, but one of the biggest things for us is people and customer satisfaction. It gains you loyalty.
“Part of that goes back to knowing our customers, I spend a lot of time out on the shop floor, so I know them, they will say hello, have a laugh, a bit of banter. They will also have a moan sometimes, but all of that interaction keeps them loyal to us. We constantly aim to keep our customers happy.”
Last year, the Leeds depot got the highest score in the company’s customer satisfaction survey twice, which is no small feat.
“That meant a lot to the staff,” says the father-of-two, who lives in Rothwell. “They see their efforts are being appreciated and then that filters back in. It’s the personal touch, it’s the difference between us and competitors. We go out of our way to make sure customers have a great shopping experience.
“Our motto is we aim to give them the ‘one-stop shop experience’ - everything that customer wants. Leeds is one of the up and coming places in the country, there are more restaurants, cafes, bars and shops opening all the time. When you go into town now on a Wednesday, it’s as busy as it used to be on a weekend five or ten years ago. We’re right at the heart of that transformation, supporting those businesses day in, day out.”
David Livingstone is head of catering at Bestway Wholesale, which has six depots in Yorkshire at Leeds, Pudsey, Bradford, Huddersfield, Doncaster and Sheffield. Although based in Edinburgh, he’s a regular visitor to Leeds and sees the potential of the city.
“We are the largest independent wholesaler in the UK. In Leeds we are growing our catering range: all the product lines cafes, sandwich shops, golf clubs, restaurants, takeaways, pubs and so on, would require. We are a one stop shop.
“For years and years we were focused on independent retailers and that is still a core part of what we do but we are now in the process of making Leeds one of the flagship catering depots in the country.
“Leeds is a vibrant city, with its universities, bars, clubs, pubs. It’s a city on the move, very much like London, Edinburgh, Manchester, Glasgow and Newcastle. You only need to look at the number of cranes on the horizon to see that. As an outsider, I can see it changing, I can see the investment and that’s why we’re extending the catering side of the business.”
He adds: “We’re five minutes from the city centre, so if you want to come and pick your goods up in person, you can, if you want to shop online, we’ll deliver. We want to be the best way to grow your food and drink business, we’re well established and that brings a breadth of experience. I see huge potential for Bestway and Batleys in Leeds in the future.”
Bestway Wholesale’s Leeds depot, which now specialises in catering, will deliver as far afield as York and Harrogate
The Leeds depot has 73 workers colleagues, with 150 in the city as a whole and 400 across its six Yorkshire depots
The Leeds depot stocks 23,000 product lines, including 51 different types of gin - products range from fresh fruit and veg to frozen meat, beers, wines, spirits and soft drinks
Bestway Wholesale supplies hotels, restaurants, pubs, clubs, old people’s homes, universities and schools through its BB Foodservice delivered arm, and provides catering supplies for smaller independent caterers and takeaways in its Bestway and Batleys depots.
Not to mention that it owns the best-one and Bargain Booze retail brands and supplies over 40,000 independent retailers throughout the UK