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Wholesaler Up Close: Birchall Foodservice

A family firm, Birchall Foodservice was founded a century ago by the grandfather of current chairman, Colin Birchall. Based in Burnley, East Lancashire, with satellite depots in Sheffield, Durham and Stoke-on-Trent, the company operates a next-day delivery service for customers across an area from north of Newcastle upon Tyne to Birmingham.

Fresh from winning Medium Business of the Year in the 2019 Burnley Business Awards, we talk to business support manager, Adam Hope about the company’s success to date.

Is the Birchall family still involved day-to-day in the business?

Yes indeed. Three generations work in the company today. Colin is chairman; his son, Justin, is managing director; Justin’s wife, Louise, is sales director; their daughter Courtney works in stock control; and her sister, Siggy, is training to be an accountant within the finance team.

It was Colin’s grandfather who started the business. He was a farmer, initially supplying cream, eggs, butter and yeast to independent outlets. The business was incorporated 80 years ago.

Our turnover is £30m and we employ 135 people with 35 vehicles in our fleet. We stock 6,000 products in the warehouse and make 500-600 deliveries to customers every day.

What is your business ethos?

Birchall Foodservice is a company built on strong family values, with quality products and supreme customer service at the forefront of our offering.

Our aim today remains the same as a century ago: to provide quality food via speedy delivery at the right price.

In addition, we try to never let a customer down. For example, if a customer comes on with an urgent request, it has been known for a member of office staff to head out to make the delivery.

Who are your customers and what products do you supply?

We supply schools, nursing homes, pubs, restaurants, sandwich shops, and bakeries, including groups as well as independent outlets.

We sell fresh, ambient, chilled and frozen, products, and are stockists of [Country Range], the UK’s leading independent foodservice brand.

Birchall Foodservice also supplies non-food and catering equipment including everything from a fridge-freezer through to a kettle and cutlery and usually it’s delivered within 3-5 days. It’s a very popular service!

What other features do you offer?

We have built what we call our Training, Exhibition and Development centre (affectionately known as ‘TED’) – with a state-of-the-art kitchen and adjacent conference room for up to 20 delegates.

TED plays host to an industry-leading array of exhibitions, conferences and events, including our well-known ‘BIG event, throughout the year.

How do you find Erudus?

Erudus is a fantastic platform.

As a wholesaler, you get customers asking all the time about allergens. Of course, you can give them the specification sheet, yet that is only up-to-date at that moment.

By switching to Erudus, we now have all the latest information, at our fingertips, all the time.

What’s more, as the allergen information is updated by the manufacturer in real time, there is actually less work for us as the wholesaler.

“Nowadays, when we are asked to provide allergen information, we can just refer to Erudus instead of spending time researching the answer ourselves”.

“Nowadays, when we are asked to provide allergen information, we can just refer to Erudus instead of spending time researching the answer ourselves”. Nowadays, when we are asked to provide allergen information, we can just refer to Erudus instead of spending time researching the answer ourselves.

Erudus enables us to give our customers confidence. It has a really good buy-in from customers.

What other benefits are there to Birchall Foodservice of Erudus?

The business also uses Erudus internally. For example, our sales team can use it to tell customers more about the products they are selling, whether that is about ingredients or pack sizes.

Birchall Foodservice has been involved with Erudus since its early days. We have a representative on the Erudus Steering Committee, which meets bi-annually to give feedback and new ideas to its developers.

They listen very carefully to everything we say, and we’re really happy to be helping to shape what Erudus does.