Issue Mar/Apr 07

Taste of the future

With an unrivalled reputation in the foodservice industry, 3663, First for Foodservice, has delivered an exceptional service to the industry for seven years

If you have ever wondered what 3663 stands for, it spells food on your phone keypad – this is everything the company stands for. This multi-award winning company delivers quality ingredients, finished products and equipment to the catering industry. In all, over 6000 people manage 1.25 million square feet of storage at 41 sites across the country. A modern fleet of around 1000 vehicles deliver to over 50,000 customers.

3663 is part of The Bidvest Group Limited (Bidvest), an international investment holding company, listed on the Johannesburg Securities Exchange South Africa (JSE). The Group invests in companies operating in the fields of service, foodservice, distribution and trading, with operations across four continents.

Bidvest is the number one food service operator in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, and is the fifth largest company in South Africa. Already the world’s largest foodservice distributor outside the United States, Bidvest has grown organically making acquisitions in Dubai, Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg, and will continue to develop on both the European and world stages in order to build long term strategic alliances with both customers and suppliers.

In 1999 Bidvest acquired 3663 in the UK, making it a privately owned, debt-free and successful business. Strong financial backing has enabled 3663 to expand and self invest in order to provide exceptional scale and efficiency to its customers. The business comprises of a number of organisations with its logistics division looking after companies including Burger King and Pret A Manger. The company also won a major five-year contract worth £1 billion to supply Kentucky Fried Chicken, which started rolling out in February 2005.

The frozen, fresh and chilled division is one of its fastest expanding areas of 3663. In the middle of 2005, 3663 acquired Swithenbank Food, a fresh fruit, vegetable and fine food distributor, and formed a joint venture with The Barton Meat Company, the third largest catering butcher in the UK.

Fresh fish was added to the portfolio in 2006 and this range will see further expansion later in the year. 3663 has also dramatically expanded its range of nonfood solutions with its win of the Compass Non-Food contract.

In addition, 3663 has recently won a renewal contract to continue to supply grocery, frozen and chilled foods to Greene King, one of the UK’s largest pub operators and brewing companies, and De Vere, a supplier of heritage and deluxe resorts, hotels and venues. Previously worth £30 million, the contract with Greene King has increased significantly to £50 million a year and will run over three years, making sure that the 2170 Greene King-owned and -managed pubs across the country have access to the highest quality food and ingredients.

The contract with De Vere, which has an annual worth of £7.4 million, will run for three years. The De Vere Group now includes 14 deluxe and heritage hotels including The Belfry in the West Midlands and The Grand in Brighton; so the demand for top quality food and produce is high.

In addition to reviewing the contract with De Vere, 3663 was also rewarded for its high levels of service and quality produce by winning the Verve Venues business, worth an additional £1.6 million, incorporating 27 perfectly positioned venues across the UK.

The company’s third division, multitemperature or broad line, offers caterers ambient goods, frozen and chilled goods all in one truck. This has a huge value in the marketplace and is one of the company’s high investment areas with significant amounts injected into sites in Nottingham, Birmingham and Edinburgh, alongside a brand new site in Harlow.

The Barton Meat Company has also seen the opening of a new, state-of-the-art meat-processing site in Gorton, Manchester. This factory is probably one of the most advanced in Europe, providing the finest quality meat cuts or finished products, and flexibility to meet customers’ requirements anywhere in the UK.

In addition to that, 3663 has also upgraded its sites in Salisbury and added value into the Langley Mill and Manchester sites.

The Langley Mill site opened in September 2004, and was 3663’s blueprint for its future depots, as it is extremely high tech, trades very well electronically and is big enough to cope with the growth 3663 envisages.

Andy Kemp, group sales director comments: ‘Our business has grown from £850 million, to £1.4 billion (year ended 30th June 2006) over five and a half years and we have the capability of doubling again – we have won over £78 million business this year alone including Hilton, and ISS Mediclean contracts. We therefore have to have the capacity to do this. There are times of the year when distribution companies become stretched, but our policy is never to allow our supply chain to be at more than 85 per cent capacity. When you work to those standards, then you start to improve your service, but to achieve this you have to have the best and most efficient facilities. The more efficient we are, the higher the value we can add for our customers.’

3663’s aim through its investment programme, is to offer the best and most flexible modern warehousing distribution operation anywhere within foodservice world wide  whilst maintaining world-class standards in ecological and environmental capabilities such as harvesting rain water to recycle for lorry washing, for example.

The focus on investment also encompasses New Product Development (NPD), to ensure that 3663 stays at the forefront of the market. For example, the Smart Choice Italian Range was developed with authenticity in mind and included the use of ‘al dente’ pasta.

3663 also has a track record of collaborating with suppliers to bring to the market true innovation. It was the first national distributor to champion local products from local people through its local sourcing initiative. Currently over 400 products from 70 suppliers are involved with some of the national food regions covered. 3663’s catering development team has also worked closely to support suppliers developing the Whites brand which is exclusive to 3663. The range comprises premium quality products and ingredients specially selected by chefs, developed to provide ‘an extra pair of hands in the kitchen’.

Because 3663 understands its customers and the market, it is able to identify the most interesting and appropriate products from over 2000 different suppliers. The expertise and strength of 3663’s buying team provides the best quality products at the right price, every time. 3663 believes that more often than not its competitors drive manufacturers and customers down their own label route. The company stands firmly on one of its principles – its commitment to choice, the reason it is the main transporter in the foodservice industry for well known, established brands, and in addition offers an own label range; a range that sets the benchmark in quality and value.

In addition to these benefits, major brand manufacturers invest heavily in NPD, and this market is very valuable in taking the foodservice market forward.

‘I believe that the foodservice market holds a very important key to the whole development of the food offer across the UK,” said Andy. ‘We, as a major player, look worldwide to see where the food trends are and then work very closely with the major manufacturers to really meet those trends.’

Renowned for being the first in foodservice, customers and people come first at 3663. Its aim to satisfy its customers’ needs as well as developing its people, generates success and profit. The company strongly believes that it has the most positive and dynamic team in the industry, with an unmatched understanding of its customers which include restaurants, pubs, cafes and clubs across the UK, as well as schools, hospitals and government departments.

Everyone in the company participates in ‘First for Service’ training, which encourages them to take a fresh look at what they do and find ways of doing it better, with the ultimate goal of improving its service to customers.

Because there is a genuine concern for the environment at 3663, its Environmental Management System has been certified to ISO 14001 in the transport, storage and communication areas across all of its 41 sites; a remarkable achievement and a first for a UK foodservice provider.

3663’s expertise has also been acknowledged in a number of awards including Best Logistics Provider Award from YUM, The Caterer’s Best Places to Work in Hospitality award in the supplier category in 2006, and The Federation of Wholesale Distributor Telesales Achiever Award for five of the last five years. The company is also a holder of the Royal Warrant.

More recently 3663 has come in at number 19 in the 2007 Sunday Times list of the UK’s 20 Best Big Companies to Work For. Heather Angus, director of HR and development adds: ‘It’s a tremendous achievement and speaks volumes about how we run our business. This is Britain’s most rigorous and sophisticated workplace survey, involving hundreds of businesses. You have to be a truly outstanding employer to make the Top 20.’ 3663 first featured in the Top 100 list in 2003.

Ensuring matters never get too complicated or tied up in red tape, 3663 is confident, modern and always focused on offering a world-class service to its customers.