This article contains paid-for content created in collaboration with Dunns Food and Drinks
NECESSITY has been the mother of invention at Dunns Food and Drinks.
The Glasgow wholesaler, founded in 1875, found itself in a similarly tough spot to businesses across the country when the coronavirus pandemic struck in March.
With the trade shut down the company had lost more than 90% of its turnover and was ineligible for any government support. Like many businesses in the hospitality industry, it was forced to adapt its offer in order to survive.
“It was always our intention to say ‘we’re not going anywhere’,” said Julie Dunn, operations director and fourth-generation member of the Dunn family to work at the company.
“We’ve been here 145 years, we’re not going to let a lockdown shut us down.”
With Scotland locked down and businesses shut Dunns introduced a home delivery service – breaking with tradition in order to sell directly to consumers.
For a trade wholesaler experienced in selling products in bulk it was quite a challenge.
“A 5kg sack of rice is a hard one to find cupboard space for,” said Julie.
In addition to smaller pack and product sizes there was also the logistical challenge of operating a delivered wholesale service during a pandemic – with issues such as social distancing having to be factored in.
However, you don’t last more than a century in business – including weathering multiple recessions and two world wars – without learning how to be resilient and the home delivery service was soon up and running, with consumers able to place orders through the company’s website.
And when venues around Scotland began offering food and drink for takeaway, Dunns was on hand to ensure they had what they needed.
Julie said: “Many of our customers were really ahead of the game with a take-out service.
“They worked out what to do and they just went ahead and did it.”
With COVID-compliant operating procedures already established in the early days of the pandemic, the company was able to resume its delivered service to trade customers without delay.
Throughout lockdown, the company maintained a team of telesales staff and reps were available well ahead of the reopening of the trade so that customers were always able to reach a member of the team.
“Having all that presence out there we’ve had a lot of feedback that we were the only people in regular contact or the only people answering the phone when people phoned in,” said Julie.
And the company continued to adapt, embracing new technology to make the business more efficient in what had become a drastically different trading climate.
“One of the things that has been absolutely brilliant for the business is in about three weeks we achieved, technologically, what would have taken us about three years,” said Julie. “We’re not luddites but we were quite happy doing what we were doing to grow. And now we’re all experts in Paypal and Braintree and Shopify and all these kinds of things.
“So we’ve now got an app for our goods-in guys, which saves a huge amount of time, an app for our delivery drivers. Embracing technology has been a real bonus.”
As the trade prepared to reopen this month, Dunns showed its innovative side once again when it introduced a whole new product range to help customers reopen safely.
Safe Hands at Dunns draws on the company’s expertise in drinks dispense, offering venues a range of highly-visible hand sanitising stations that can dispense hand sanitiser to multiple fonts from a single 10L bag-in-box.
The units are able to be wall, bar or table-mounted or can be supplied as self-contained, floor standing units featuring a venue’s own branding.
Safe Hands joins the established Dunns portfolio of food and drinks products – including craft beers, wines and spirits from around the world.
The ability to offer such a broad range of products has long been a strength of Dunns, but Julie believes it is particularly advantageous in the ‘new normal’ of coronavirus.
“A lot of operators want to reduce the number of interactions their kitchen and bar staff are having with external people,” said Julie.
“For us the key is right there in the name: Food and Drinks. We can deliver it all to you, so that is really a reduction in terms of the number of interactions your staff are having.”
It’s been a long path out of lockdown for the Scottish trade, but as venues across the country open their doors once again the message from Dunns Food and Drinks is clear:
“It’s been a tough time for everybody but we’re here, we’ve been waiting for you and we’re looking forward to working with you.”
For more information visit dunnsfoodanddrinks.co.uk