Big Michael’s: Managing Rapid Growth

When Peter Marinos founded Big Michael’s Fruit and Vegetables in 2009, he had one van and a single customer. 

Fast forward to today and, thanks to passion and a lot of hard work, Peter and his team are shipping 1,000 orders a day on 45 trucks to their thousands of customers.

We visited Peter, who shared insights into the business, including how technology helps get the little stuff right, at scale.

What's the biggest challenge for Big Michael's?

Peter: “The major challenge over the past 12 months has been size of it and getting it right across the board. That’s been the hardest part.

So, getting it right for me means showing the customer that you are big enough to service them anywhere, but small enough to care about the little things. When the chef asks you “Can you tell your driver I’d like the potatoes on the bottom shelf in the back of the kitchen?”, my approach is “Yes, sir.” 

I’ll go above and beyond. But getting that message to the right person on the right day [can be hard]. I could have told the right person, but he might’ve had the day off, replaced by a person I haven’t told.

Combining the sheer size and volume of over a thousand orders a day with getting down to the fine details of brand, sizing, ripeness, special boutique varieties [is a challenge].”

Is there any part of the job you don't like?

Peter: “My least favourite thing in the wholesale industry has got to be where you need to call the customers to give them a hurry along with payment. If you don’t do it, people will be calling you for a hurry along. You don’t want to be in that boat. So, that is the toughest part. 

You can give them the best quality, price and service and unfortunately all that’s undone if you don’t get paid. 

Fresho has made that a lot better for me. Enabling credit card payments and putting a system in place to help us get paid automatically, even daily or weekly, and feeding straight into our accounting software.

It’s changed the world for us.”

How do you manage fruit & vegetable margins?

Peter: “For me, managing margins is all about moving volume, being fair and moving with the market. So if something is ridiculously priced, you have to lower your margin or take a hit. You’re making no money. But it’s only fair – you can’t make money on all the lines all year round. 

And you have to work with people and understand their menus and pricing. Your burger doesn’t go up because lettuce is up. Your big breakfast doesn’t go up because avocados have gone up. 

So, where your customer’s going to feel the pain, you have to feel the pain too. It’s not all one-sided. It’s a relationship, as I always say. For me anyway, it’s a personal relationship.”

Have you any advice for wholesalers thinking of going digital?

Peter: “To people who are nervous about changing from carbon copy and paper and writing each order down with notes and prices, I’d say take the leap! The technology has surpassed you. You don’t know it yet, but it’s better than you! 

Think about it. It can do the 2,500+ customers we supply, with tailored pricing for each one. Their favourites list. This bloke likes Roma tomatoes, and this one only wants small cucumbers. Product notes and pricing deals. Fixed pricing and delivery instructions. Proof of delivery with QR codes so no one’s arguing about whether you received a product or not. 

[And Fresho] were here to guide us through. They were in our office for over a month, making sure that we were comfortable before they let go. And the important thing is, the directors and the admin staff are all the same kind of people. We’ve been on the system for how six years now. So, six years we’ve been all growing together. It’s a story, it’s a partnership, and you should give it a go.

Take the leap of faith and you won’t be let down.”

Thanks to Peter Marinos of Big Michael’s Fruit and Vegetables for speaking with us!

Want to know more?

Main image credit: Big Michael’s Fruit and Vegetables

Picture of Frank Carron
Frank Carron
Frank works with our customers to tell their stories so that others in fresh food distribution can share in the challenges, successes and unique personalities of this fast-moving and changing sector.
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