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Make Friends & Influence Business

Make friends with your foodservice company – that’s the advice of award-winning restaurateur Pascal Arnoux, who believes there are benefits to
be had for both businesses from such an alliance.

Burgundy-born Pascal and his wife Karen are proprietors of the 80 cover fine-dining restaurant Pascal at the Old Vicarage in Burton-on-Trent, which was recently voted Taste of Staffordshire’s ‘Best Restaurant’.

His foodservice supplier is First Choice Foodservice Limited, which is also in Burton. Says Pascal: “First Choice’s commitment is incredible. I know if I’ve forgotten some ingredient I can ring up, ask if there’s a van passing and whatever it is will be brought to me as quickly as possible.

“We’ve developed an understanding. They know the sort of thing I’m looking for and appreciate the importance of delivering me the finest ingredients. I would advise all chefs and caterers to make a friend of their foodservice company. Start by inviting the company round for a chat.”

First Choice MD Steve Ainger was more than happy to listen to Pascal, Karen and their head chef Colin Ansell, who came to their kitchen with a pedigree that included cheffing in a double rosette restaurant, as well as for TV cook Anthony Worrall-Thompson. Although a leading independent wholesaler in the Midlands, First Choice’s roots were in supplying the retail sector and the company only moved in to foodservice properly in September 2009. Explains Steve: “We saw foodservice as a way of moving the business forward. “We already had some caterers as customers but wanted to grow the number. Having someone like Pascal to talk to with all his experience and his reputation for producing consistently excellent food was invaluable to us as the difference between the two sectors is massive. We’ve had to make big changes.” Among the changes made were scrapping the minimum order drop, which had stood at £500, and ensuring drop-offs didn’t clash with service. Says Steve: “We learned that chefs and other caterers need to order in much smaller quantities but that they need deliveries much more frequently. In some cases that means daily.

“We used to use 7.5 ton trucks for our drops but most restaurants don’t have the space for such a vehicle so we now also deliver on 3.5 ton multi temperature vans – a bit like the Tesco home shopping delivery vans.”

Another big change for First Choice has been in the ordering process. Says Steve: “Retailers use code numbers when ordering their stock but chefs order by ingredient and expect you to know what they want. It’s not unusual to have a chef ask you to add ‘the butter I normally use’ to their order. We’ve had to re-train our telesales staff.”

The move into food service has also seen the company add an additional 2,000 lines to its product portfolio, ranging from sides of salmon to unsalted butter, but adds Steve: “In these difficult times, it’s all about helping the customer to be as successful as they can be. That way, everyone profits.”

Customer Profile

Pascal and Karen moved to the old vicarage 13 years ago. It was already a restaurant but the couple, who met when Pascal left Paris to work in the area to improve his English, completely changed the concept.

Since then, they have established a stellar local reputation. Their gourmet themed evenings, which range from rustic French to Champagne and seafood, are sell-outs, as is their regular cookery school. It takes the format of a Monday morning demo of a starter, main course and dessert, which are then served to the class. The restaurant, which changes its menu every four to five weeks, is also popular for wedding breakfasts and other functions.

For further information on the restaurant, visit www.pascalattheoldvicarage.co.uk.

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