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Thu 30 Jul 2009 04:00 AM

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Following the golden triangle

Food service provider Horeca Trade managing director Hisham Al Jamil reveals the firm's strategy for staying strong during the downturn and why its staff do not need to be trained.

Following the golden triangle
Horeca Trade managing director Hisham Al Jamil.

Food service provider Horeca Trade managing director Hisham Al Jamil reveals the firm's strategy for staying strong during the downturn and why its staff do not need to be trained.

With customer purchasing power decreasing in today's rocky financial climate, food service provider Horeca Trade is dealing with the downturn by adhering to a seemingly simple strategy: staying focused.

"The current challenges in the F&B industry are tough," concedes the firm's managing director, Hisham Al Jamil. "It's survival of the fittest out there.

"Today, the foodservice market has two schools of thought - one which entails initiatives towards increasing sales and revenue to save the business. The other entails initiatives to cut on expenses and investments.

An important focus will be towards Abu Dhabi, where occupancy levels are still high.

"For both schools, it is important to learn from such a challenging period - to learn how to cope with it," he comments. "It is evident that the F&B industry in the UAE is in a vulnerable position."

Al Jamil predicts that the UAE's F&B industry will be unable to continue to operate in the same way if the downturn continues for a sustained period of time, anticipating that a "domino effect" will take place. He adds that in order to survive, the industry may have to take a "collaborative approach" through "mergers, acquisitions, or even manage-ment control".

"This will require courageous initiatives and tough decisions," he says. "But I am a firm believer that where there is a need, there is a will - and there is definitely a way."

But Horeca Trade's strategy during this tough time is simple, explains Al Jamil.

"We will remain focused on what we do best; we will challenge ourselves and everything we do. We will keep investing in our people and maintain our support of the brands we represent," he says.

By following the ‘golden triangle' rule of service, product and price, Al Jamil is confident the firm will continue to stand out from the competition.

"We pride ourselves on the fact that we have managed to bring several international brands together under one roof, included our latest additions, De Cecco Italian pasta, Glennans and Sweet Streets Desserts," he says.

The supplier is also shifting its focus towards the region's more resilient F&B markets.

"An important focus will be on Abu Dhabi, where occupancy levels are still relatively high and where major gastronomic events have been taking place," he notes.

Horeca also recently launched a loyalty programme called Horecarewards, dedicated to the firm's foodservice customers.

Al Jamil describes the scheme as "rewarding loyal customers and making their purchasing more beneficial", while also acting to ensure the firm's customer relationships remain strong.

The company differentiates itself from its competitors by providing a food service consultancy rather than simply acting as a sales firm, claims Al Jamil.

"The secret is that we do not train our staff," he reveals. "Their parents did that long before they joined us and we are all, therefore, committed to customer service.

"We listen carefully to the different points of views of our partners, offering our solutions by taking into consideration the quality a chef is asking for and the brand name that the restaurant manager and his team are comfortable serving."

As a member of the Emirates Culinary Guild, Horeca ensures it stays in tune with the F&B marketplace by attending the organisation's monthly meetings and supporting many of its events.

The firm also has a big presence each year at Dubai's Gulfood exhibition, where it supports its numerous brands.

Al Jamil notes that times are tough for the food service industry, admitting this has forced the business to make sacrifices as some customers opt for lower quality products in order to save cash in the short-term.

"We sacrificed our margins in some cases, because it was a pricing strategy. However we kept our service levels and quality in place to meet our customer's needs and requirements," he concludes.

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