Plates of vegan food

A #COVID19 #BusinessTalk webinar with Liz Sharples, Ben Harraway and Faz Ahmed

9 min read

Isolation, panic buying, increased costs, closed borders, workforce shortages – in the last six weeks these are all issues or reasons that have led to one of the more bizarre periods of supply chain volatility in modern times.

In the approach to Brexit, many were concerned that exchange rates would create supply and demand difficulties for global commodities, however few would have predicted that it would be eclipsed by this.

In this online Business Talk Liz Sharples (Retail and Tourism specialist at the University) will be joined by representatives from Portico, General Manager Ben Harraway and the co-owner of Akash Restaurant, Faz Ahmed.

Below is a condensed version of questions and answers from our webinar for those who want a quick summary.

Quickfire summary

Faz: The surprise is the unpredictability. Our business declined by 75%, people just were not coming out. When lockdown hit, it went absolutely crazy, (a week before). Now we have a little bit of stability, we had to change our business completely. It’s almost like starting a new business! We’ve had to change our opening hours, and we’ve now bought in with UberEats and JustEat which we didn’t do before due to the huge commission they took, now the takeaway is our core business. We cut back on everything, but now people are ordering takeaways. We ordered 3 months of everything (except fruit & veg) we had pallets of rice, spices and oil so we we’re okay. We haven’t put our prices up, but looking at it we might have to put it up.

Liz: If you trade and use British as part of your brand, I think it’s important that you remain in that ethos. If you were using the Middle East before, continue it. Maybe look at who is your tier 1 & tier 2 suppliers what are your relationships with them? What have you got working for you? Is it viable and how are your customers reacting to it?

Liz: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, this is the time where you can develop different relationships. What do you think your customers will want after this is all over?

Faz: The best thing is, to be honest with the consumer. We used every avenue we could. We have a lot of young boys who do walk-in deliveries. When it’s really busy, don’t think about your profit margin think about your customers and the quality to keep them satisfied. Customer service is essential! You want to hold on to loyal customers. You have got to think, how can I retain that customer? Always give back to the local community. If you look after the community they will look after you. We’re teaming up with Portsmouth Football club players to feed the homeless.

Liz: If you are going to change your supplier, be honest and explain the reason why. In France, they are sending out samples from different suppliers so customers can get a taste.

Ben: Get transparency and communication with your suppliers. Think of your suppliers as a network instead of a straight line. Look at alternative supply chains. Keep diversity within your supply chain!

Faz: We’re going to carry on with our local community work. It’s that personal touch that the bigger chains can’t provide. We have a good relationship with the University, with the Navy and all these personal relationships are really helping us. We have our USPs and that’s all we can do. It’s sometimes better to be small than big. We steadily went along and we didn’t have to close. If another pandemic happens I think I can sustain our business.

Liz: The industry is going through a very sad moment. Listening to your customers, if you cannot get something from overseas go local.

Ben: The Port’s cargo has remained relatively stable. The majority of our cargo is fresh produce. The nation’s bananas are continuing to flow through the Port. We have continued to support our staff throughout this time.