Sourcing your products and ingredients from one delivered wholesaler and keeping costs steady can take much of the headache out of managing your restaurant, especially if you’re a fast-expanding business like the award-winning small group The Coconut Tree.

Mithra Fernando, Finance Director of The Coconut Tree talks about how they work in partnership with independent delivered wholesale company Creed Foodservice:

“The Coconut Tree was set up by a group of friends and family relocating from London to Cheltenham in 2016, and our restaurant focuses on Sri Lankan street food in a relaxed ‘good times’ environment. Our food is informal – small dishes and mains that are full of flavour, mix and match, ‘as it comes’ from the kitchen. The Coconut Tree’s food is affordable too with freshly cooked dishes starting from £2.50 with all kinds of food preferences catered for. The atmosphere is laid back and the music is great; our philosophy is that everyone is welcome at the table and it is a concept that’s really enjoyed by all kinds of consumer. The first restaurant opened in Cheltenham three years ago and there are now two Coconut Trees in Bristol, one in Oxford and Cardiff, with more openings in the pipeline.

“While the Cheltenham restaurant started as a hobby while we were still working in our ‘day jobs’, when the time came for us to focus on it as a serious business opportunity we knew that we needed to get many of the operational aspects, such as working with our chosen  wholesaler, right from the start. We have all had senior-level experience in the hospitality industry, so we know how to run a successful business and understand many of the challenges that restaurants face.

“It is often easier for small restaurants to think that buying from individual suppliers will save them money. Working in partnership with one delivered wholesale company means you have a ‘one-stop shop’ for most supplies and this can take a weight off your shoulders in terms of time taken to order and take deliveries. A delivered wholesaler has far greater buying power with suppliers than you can have so it makes sense to work with them. The Coconut Tree has been with Creed Foodservice since the early days. We swapped to a smaller specialist wholesaler for three months but returned to Creed as the alternative company was unable to offer us the breadth of products and the flexibility to help us manage our business. As our brand has expanded, the support and price consistency, coupled with a strong relationship has been particularly important.”

“As with any restaurant, keeping our GP tight is essential. As an expanding small chain, this is particularly important. We operate the same menu in each of our restaurants, the development and buying for which is controlled by head office. As a larger customer, we are able to operate on a contract with Creed Foodservice which means we are better prepared for any market cost fluctuations or product shortages and so can maintain our margins. Cost transparency and a good working relationship with your chosen delivered wholesale company is a must. If you know in advance that there are going to be cost changes in the market it helps you to plan ahead.

“This partnership works both ways too. Creed Foodservice would be the first to admit that they are not specialists in ‘world food’ ingredients so we have been able to open the doors for them with some of the specialist smaller producers we use. Being listed with Creed Foodservice means that we are still able to buy the ingredient we require but through one point of contact, making life so much easier for everyone”.