How Brakes bridged the B2B/ B2C gap to feed a nation

Brakes, a B2B food delivery service, implements direct to consumer business model to address COVID-19 supply shortages.

Date published
August 06, 2020 Categories

30-second summary:

  • Brakes is a B2B food delivery service and leading supplier to the food service sector in the UK. Its customer base includes schools, contract caterers, hospitals, hotels, independent dining establishments, pubs and restaurant chains.
  • With the closer of schools, pubs, restaurants and hotels due to COVID-19, Brakes pivoted its strategy and launched a new direct-to-consumer platform, enabling consumers to order the food they needed directly.
  • Now, Brakes has distributed over 1.5 million care packages to the most vulnerable individuals in the country and continues to deliver over 200,000 care packages each week to families across the UK.

When COVID-19 forced the closure of schools, pubs, restaurants and hotels, Brakes knew it had to pivot its core business strategy.

Brakes is a B2B food delivery service and leading supplier to the food service sector in the UK. Owned by Sysco, it has sister companies in Ireland, France and Sweden.

Its customer base is comprised of schools, contract caterers, hospitals, hotels, independent dining establishments, pubs and restaurant chains.

But when the Coronavirus became a reality, the company suddenly had a much larger mission – to feed a nation that was struggling.

Just three weeks into lockdown, the Food Foundation reported that 1.5 million Britons reported not eating for a full day because they either weren’t able to afford it or didn’t have access to food.

In that same timeframe, some three million people were in households where someone had been forced to skip meals.

In addition to a health crisis, the UK was facing a hunger crisis.

A purpose to pivot

To continue to support its communities and address the significant impact on its B2B revenues, Brakes recognized that it needed to respond quickly to new market shifts and dynamics.

With the UK in lockdown and business as usual at a standstill, the company felt obligated to find a way to bridge the gap and get food to those who needed it the most.

And, impressively, that’s just what they did. In about one week, and by working with ecommerce specialist partner KPS, Brakes was able to launch an entirely new direct-to-consumer platform on the SAP Commerce Cloud.

This new D2C ecommerce site allowed consumers to order the food they needed directly and choose between a click and collect option or home delivery option.

It also enabled Brakes to become a primary distributor for care packages in the UK, delivering food essentials to vulnerable people who were – and are – unable to leave their homes.

While the new D2C channel fixed Brakes’ most glaring challenge, it presented another. Brakes was still committed to delivering food to National Health Service (NHS) hospitals and care homes, as well as supporting supermarket efforts to get food into stores.

Therefore, it remained hugely important for the business to protect its core wholesale business and B2B site performance, as both domains were now running on the same code base.

A lesson in teamwork

In partnership with Bidfood UK, Brakes was able to keep both their B2C and B2B platforms successfully running in tandem – which is one of the key takeaways of the Brakes project.

While Brakes alone certainly didn’t have all the answers, by sharing the problem with a network of partners, they were able to execute and find solutions together.

As a result, the Brakes team has successfully:

And continues to:

Focus on the solution, not the problem

We’re all acutely aware of the significant challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has dealt to many organizations around the globe. Not only does the pandemic continue to have serious implications for people’s health, it also has grave implications for the economy as a whole.

On top of these overarching concerns, Brakes encountered substantial obstacles of their own – from ensuring back-end IT functions were running smoothly, to figuring out how to get food in the right hands and building trust with a new consumer market.

The key to overcoming these challenges – not only for Brakes but for all organizations – is to be laser-focused on the solution rather than the problem.

When combined with a larger sense of purpose and urgency, businesses will be empowered to find a new approach, run with it and accomplish what they’ve set out to do.

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