Hello readers! I’m Dan Head and I head up the Foodservice division at Visionary Food Solutions. If you’re looking to expand your brand into the foodservice market, then here are my top tips for getting you prepared.

What is Foodservice?

The world of Foodservice encompasses any food and drink that is being served outside of the home. It is often called Foodservice, OOH (out of home) or the Catering Industry.

Foodservice plays a key part in our F&B industry here in the UK – showcasing a market worth over £57bn. There are over 350,000 outlets throughout education, healthcare, travel, leisure, pubs, restaurant, hotel and beyond that food and drink suppliers are looking to target; and sites are looking to source products for.

How to get your products into foodservice

Why supply into Foodservice?

Supply into Foodservice can ensure the distribution of your product into consumer’s hands. With so many sites to target, Foodservice is a great way to pick up some quick wins and see sales coming in while gaining traction and visibility of your brand throughout the country.

Foodservice often provides quick wins due to its more flexible launch windows, rather than having to wait for retail and regular seasonal range reviews. Cafes, restaurants, hotels, leisure sites and more want to ensure they are staying seasonal with their products and on-trend with fast-moving consumer needs.

How to get your products into a Cafe

Who are the key players?

There are thousands of distributors who fall into the world of Foodservice delivery, so I’ve highlighted below some of those in our industry who seem open to new and exciting innovation.

  • Bidfood – £2.5bn turnover, UK-wide business who source products across all categories to supply everything from independent cafes through to global hotel chains.

  • Brakes – £2.2bn turnover UK-wide distributor who themselves claim that ‘We are always looking for the right products; new and innovative ideas to keep the food you offer fresh and exciting’.

  • Caterforce – £550 million pound turnover business. Caterforce are actually made up of 7 regional wholesalers who combine to make Caterforce Group. A great place to start if you want to build a regional presence and then scale nationally with a solid distribution partner.

  • Creed – £60 million pound turnover business who are based in the South, but are fast becoming a key distributor throughout the UK with a real focus on innovation and keeping customers menus as on-trend as possible.

  • Country Range – £450 million pound turnover distributor made up of 12 regional suppliers servicing everything from chilled and frozen to ambient, alcohol and more. Another strong opportunity to achieve a regional listing and work with the group towards national distribution.

The process of gaining interest from foodservice providers

Review your best distributor fit
* Have you picked a distributor who sells your category of product and has customers in the sectors you want to target? (e.g. education, hotel, pubs)

Research, research, research!
* Have you researched this distributor to know what makes them tick?
* Who is the buyer?
* Who are your competitors?

Build your initial proposition and make it concise:
* Pick out a few unique selling points your competitors don’t have
* Identify why you would work for this distributor – is it a strong price point, unique branding or something else?

Building customer interest is key:
* Do you have interested customers you can take to the distributor to ensure your listing gets off to a strong start – if not you will need to build this up
* Speak with a few sites in your local area e.g. restaurants or universities to understand who supplies them
* Would they be interested in having your product through this distributor?

Contact the buying team:
* What is the price point of your product?
* How many units in a case?
* How many cases on a layer?
* How many layers on a pallet?
* What is your MOQ?
* What is your marketing budget?
* Who are the interested customers supplied by us (the distributor)?

Understand their initial views on your brand:
* The buyer will not always be interested in your product right away
* If they are – great! If not understand what you need to do to get them excited
* Take this as constructive feedback and build upon your initial proposition


Unlike retail, there can be multiple levels of margin expected within the selling process.

You sell the product to the distributor – the distributor sells the product to the café (for example) then the café sells the product to the end customer.

Here you have two levels of margin where the foodservice distributor may be looking to make 30% and the café 40%. This can scale your sell-out price considerably and is worth looking in to ensure that your product will sell at the price it ends up on the shelf.

There is no common margin that distributors or the eventual sites look to make; everyone is different. The above is an average though and would serve you well in working out your pricing structure.

What margins should you aim for in food service?

Promotional expectations

While considering the above pricing challenges, have you thought about promotional expectations?

You will often have to launch on 15-20% promotion then run a further 2 or 3 a year during key seasons for your product.

Make sure you have built this into your pricing model so that this activity will not become a serious headache later down the line.

You will often have to launch on 15-20% promotion then run a further 2 or 3 a year during key seasons for your product


Exhibitions are a key driver in gaining an understanding of feedback for your product – and building your lead pool. An area of the exhibition market that we always recommend are sector-specific exhibitions.

Are you looking at getting into education, healthcare, pubs, travel or other specific sectors?

Sector-specific shows provide a great platform to focus on a specific area of the Foodservice industry and not over complicate your launch plans.

Pub 20, for example, is an exhibition solely dedicated to the on-trade while The University Caterers Organisation EXPO is a show with over 150 university buyers looking for new and innovative products for the academic year ahead.

These exhibitions can help break the industry down into manageable bite-sized chunks for you.

To thank you for reading, here’s a special offer!

Any friend of Smoothie PR is a friend of ours and we are offering you a free 30-minute phone consultation to run over this, and any of your own specific queries, in more detail.

You can email or call me on 02920 807 572 to set up a time that suits and I look forward to hearing from you.

I hope the above has gone some way to breaking down the process of working towards a distributor listing within the Foodservice market. This is a simple summary and there are a number of other moving parts that will contribute towards making sure you are ‘launch’ ready.

Dan Head – Head of Foodservice – Visionary Food Solutions

More food for thought…

Hey, Charlotte here, thanks for reading through to the end. If you enjoyed this then you’ll also enjoy ‘Scaling up and outsourcing your production‘ and ‘How to get stocked in farm shops and delis‘.

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