Ben, our Head of Fruit & Vegetable Buying, has given us a run down of his day on how he ensures all the beautiful fresh produce arrives in the stores. As you can see it involves a lot of hard work, early mornings and late evenings!
A typical market day sees myself and 3 or 4 of our drivers headed down to New Covent Garden Market, we go three times a week. This of course means an early start, usually I’m out the door by 0330, although on busier days I tend to leave on the hour.
I’ll either head straight for the market or go to our Distribution Centre to pick one of our vans up, all dependent on holidays, weather….
NCG is a bustling hub for all types of fruit, veg, herbs… all be it a tad quieter at the moment due to COVID..
I place orders with up to 10 suppliers the night before, some specialise in a certain product, like the Mushroom Man or Neil Brown Herbs, if it’s a herb, he can get it! Others are broader, like French Garden where we acquire the majority of our fresh produce and have done for years. We also have a direct link through a couple of these suppliers to Rungis market in Paris, the biggest in Europe. And also Milan Market. Basically – if you need something, I can find it!
I try to get there before the drivers, to set up camp if you will. Getting all the pallets of stock to our spot and checking quality on all produce. Drivers arrive for 0430. Once the drivers arrive, there’s time for a quick coffee before we start loading. We do this by store location — one van will take SW10 and SW11, another will take SW19 and SW6, and so on. Again, when loading, the quality is checked by myself and the drivers, trying our hardest to ensure only the best stock makes it to the shelves. We tend to spend between 2 and 4 hours at the market.
Next it’s on to the stores where pallets are unloaded and boxes are stacked, ready for our talented fruit and veg team to make their displays. We aim to leave market by 0830 latest. We want all shops to receive stock by 1100 latest. We also have produce arriving direct from places such as the Amalfi Coast, Italy – lemons and oranges of course – to our Distribution Centre. I aim to return to the DC by 0930.
Upon arrival I take pictures of the invoices collected at market. These are sent to Travis, our Communications Coordinator. He helps with the admin, which I’m very grateful for! Prices are uploaded to the tills followed by labels. I’m not the most tech savvy, this would’ve taken a solid 1-2 hours for me, yet he manages it all in approx 30 mins!!
Orders are placed either the day before (NCG) or two days before (Rungis, Milan, Tomato Stall…) I post these orders by 1000 latest to ensure shops have adequate time to check their stock levels.
Shops Cut Off for orders varies depending on the supplier, usually around 1500. I tend to not get a response from the guys in the market until their shift starts at 2230. They usually come back to me between 2300 to 0230, (you learn to sleep in between!).
On market days, I try to finish by 1400 latest, any longer and the coffee stops working!
My admin days differ, I try to keep it between 0900 & 1700, but that rarely happens!