Speak to anyone working in the food distribution business and they’ll tell you that the industry is hectic by nature, and the hours are pretty unforgiving. That goes for you, and your team, leading to burn out for business owners and turn over in staff. In this article, we outline what some of our customers suggest to improve the workplace, reduce stress and get more time for the things that often get lost, like quality time with loved ones.
High stress, no time for yourself or loved ones, high staff turnover, they’re all par for the course in food wholesale. But even when some things just come with the job, not everyone accepts that “that’s just the way it is”. They make changes for the better. We spoke to a number of wholesale fresh food suppliers in Australia, New Zealand, and the UK who are not taking it lying down and shared their tips.
Social connection drives better outcomes for everyone
Foster a positive working environment for your staff – There’s much to be gained for both you and them. In a workplace that is enjoyable, productivity improves and stress and conflict reduces. Good collaboration will also translate into fewer mistakes, which is one of the main stress factors of course.
Two things we suggest:
1. Create a place for open and transparent communication
Let staff share information, ideas, insights and concerns. It may lead to quicker problem-solving and better decision-making but maybe even more important, when your employees feel heard and supported, they’ll also work together more cohesively.
2. Champion mental health and well-being
In the fast-paced world of wholesale food supply, staff burn-out is very real and we’re seeing more and more suppliers concerned about the well-being of their workforce. There’s no doubt that it’s a tough industry to work in and the unsociable hours don’t help.
The workplace can help or hinder people, so what can you do to have a positive impact? Here are some suggestions from your peers…
“We’ll take our staff out for afternoon drinks at one of our venues. Whether it’s footy tipping or “guess whose baby” photos on the wall, it’s really finding little ways of making things fun. It’s very important to our staff and it’s a day-to-day thing as well”,
Liz Goncalves, CEO at InSeason Produce
Carve Meat Co., based in New Zealand, has someone who comes in once a week for staff to participate in the likes of yoga, breath work, personal development, workouts, and even deep tissue massages for the guys who lift heavy boxes.
To be able to identify colleagues who might need help and how to help them, tap into the many training and educational resources that are out there.
“There’s a few of us that have had mental health training just to help us keep an eye out on our staff and make sure they’re okay. It’s basically things like making sure that their shifts aren’t too long, that they’re not working too many days in a row, that they have breaks”, Liz Goncalves, CEO of InSeason Produce
Don't be shackled to your office
Today, it’s surprising how much you can do with a mobile phone or laptop and the right online tools designed for fresh food suppliers.
Adjust your schedule
Tailor your work schedule to when you absolutely HAVE to be in the office. That flexibility lets you choose when to rest and recharge, and most of all, to work around family commitments, such as school events, appointments and special occasions.
What suppliers tell us
Fully disconnect and immerse yourself in personal time with the comfort of knowing you can log on if you really have to. Be in the present!
Have a fresh look at your processes. Are they still right for today?
As business continues to move onwards and upwards, regularly assess processes, seek feedback from your team, and talk with others in wholesale food supply to identify where you can eliminate inefficiencies.
Host information in one central place
In wholesale food supply, it’s really easy for information to get lost in translation and for processes to be double-handled. The constant flow of paperwork going through different hands – admin, pickers (or butchers or filleters depending on what type of supplier you are), packers, delivery drivers, accountants, etc.
Watch how MyButcher automate orders from admit through to their schnitzel team, butchers and value-added team.
Automation is your number one ally
The right tools can make a massive difference to the day-to-day for you and our team.
It can be daunting to try and understand what’s the best fit for your business. There are many automation solutions out there, some designed for very large, some for small businesses, some for both. Common options include ERPs, inventory management and point-of-sale systems. For food suppliers in particular, ordering platforms tend to cover some of the most important workflows and processes. They offer a number of ways to save time. For instance:
- Easier ordering for customers
- Simplified and robust processes for order processing
- Efficient delivery route planning.
- Automated payments.
Take the heat out of managing your chefs’ orders
When chefs place orders online, from their phone or laptop, magic happens. It’s always clear what they want, it’s alway legible and it’s always understood.
Encourage this as the standard, as opposed to text, email, phone calls or Whatsapp. It will minimise the chances of orders being misinterpreted and thereby time spent on putting out fires.
And of course, in the grand scheme of things, this holistic move to online will make things a whole lot easier and enjoyable for your customers. The result: smoother operations, improved customer rapport and naturally less pressure on you.
Although there are no silver bullets, there are practical steps to take to improve your, and your team’s well-being. We hope this combination of people and process-focused tips have given you ideas for your business. Do you have tips of your own? Please share them with us.