Bestway focus on Scottish on-trade

David Livinstone

There is nothing better than putting a face to a name and the DRAM did that this month when we caught up with David Livingstone whose official title is Head of Catering at Bestway Wholesale. His responsibilities however are more far-reaching and include Drinks Express. There is not a lot he doesn’t know about the business which is hardly surprising since he been working for the business since he was a young man (and that wasn’t yesterday) sorry David.

For those of you that are not familiar with Bestway Wholesale let me fill you in. It was established in 1976, and since then Bestway Wholesale has grown to become the UK’s largest independent food and drink wholesaler. It is part of the giant Bestway Group which also has global business interests include banking, cement, Pharmacy and Property Investment.

To give you an idea of the scale of Bestway its latest UK turnover was in the region of £2.5bn and it has 20,000 employees here. It owns 1,500 retail outlets with its brands including Costcutter, Kwiksave, Co-op and Mace and delivers to 70,000 independent retailers and 40,000 catering and foodservice operators. It also has 70 pharmacies in Scotland. Its founder and chairman is Sir Anwar Pervez while its CEO is Zameer Choudrey, a member of the House of Lords.

In Scotland, most people are more familiar with its subsidiary company Batley’s, which was bought by Bestway in 2005, while in 2010 it bought Bellevue and Martrex (the food service arm of CJ Lang, and in 2014 Sher Bros. In 2020 the Costcutter supermarket group was also acquired. So you can begin to see the scale of the group.

Says David, “Some people consider us mainly a cash and carry business, but we also have a significant wholesale delivered market with some £25m of sales through BB Foodservice and our Drinks Express business. In Scotland alone we have seven large depots which service most areas of the country and a team of ten servicing the on-trade.”

I met him at the Glasgow Bestway-Batley’s depot in Kilbirnie Street which was going like a fair to talk mainly about Drinks Express and the company’s primary focus in Scotland which is the on-trade.

David explains, “We have been very fortunate in that parts of our business have performed very well during the pandemic, but it is now time to focus on, and support, the on-trade.
Our customer base is wet led pubs, pubs that offer food, hotels and licensed restaurants. We have lots of long-standing relationships but we would like to expand our reach.

“Despite the scale of the company we are family-owned, and we have a significant presence here. We have a significant team in Scotland and Drinks Express and BBFoods are headquartered here.

He continues, “I believe we offer customers a comprehensive range of products and promotions at sector-leading prices, unparalleled availability and customer service which is second to none and our promise to customers is to be the ‘Best Way to Grow your Food and Drinks Business’.”

The business also has a contact centre. David tells me, “Our operators have their regular clients who they talk to weekly, and our customers also have regular reps. Billy Rhynd is our regional sales manager and he currently looks after eight territory sales managers who link into the contact centre. We like to give our customers a personal touch. I think this gives them consistency, which is very much needed at the moment. If mistakes are made there is always someone to sort it out.”

Something else which is needed at the moment is available stock. David says, “Through no fault of their own the on-trade in Scotland is having difficulty getting stock. The market is in chaos. Fortunately, we are more nimble than most because of the stock we tend to hold. Our job is to make the customer’s life as easy as possible. This means we deliver on time, and we deliver what they want, when they want it, at a good price.”

We also have a website – which leads you to our food offer and our Drinks Express range and brochure. There is an app too. This can be used by bar staff to make an order by scanning the barcode on the brands they need to replace. It is easy to use.

“We offer next day delivery, day one for day two, and usually give customers two set days a week. Some want one, others more.

“We usually achieve 98% order fulfilment for all customers. Of course, we do want to achieve 100% and give customers absolutely everything they order. We can also supply kegs and do installs. Additionally reps meet regularly with drinks brand ambassadors so that they are fully knowledgeable as many brands as possible. We are trying to sell everyone’s brands and the more we know about their brands the more helpful we can be to our customers.”

One of the benefits of Drinks Express is that it not only delivers competitive prices and an comprehensive range of alcoholic drinks but it can also provide non-licensed items such as soft drinks and cleaning products. Says David, “We really are a one-stop-shop – we can provide everything a pub would need from beer line cleaners to toilet blocks. I like to think we provide a local, community service to the on-trade.”

He concludes, “Fundamentally we want to make our customers life as easy as possible. They have enough on their plates. We aim to fulfill their orders on time, in full, with friendly service and at the right price.”


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