Viandex: restaurants for direct sale to consumers

The coronavirus pandemic is changing everything for local entrepreneurs who suffer from it, but who also bounce back from the storm, stick together with their employees and, sometimes, spark new ways of doing things. We meet them in this series “Managing the crisis”.
Company: Viandex
Type: Wholesaler in the distribution of meat, fish, seafood, vegetables and fruits
Contact: Pierre Gagné, president
Q The situation before the crisis?

R Viandex is a somewhat mixed distributor. We do a lot of restorers. Our main clientele is family and upscale catering. Basically, I would say it’s roughly 70% of our turnover. The remaining 30% is specialized shops such as fishmongers and butchers, a few supermarkets and food services such as residences for the elderly and hospitals, an area where we are however not very present, these establishments making rather deal with distributors offering complete lines. Being specialized in white tablecloths restaurants, of course we were hit hard by the crisis.

Q What was the collateral damage?

A We were forced to lay off employees, workers directly assigned to production and delivery, and a few vendors who also specialized in catering.

Q How are you coping with the crisis?

R On day 1 of the crisis, we took the slap. And on day 2, we turned around and tried to make a little more sales among our other clienteles. What we also managed to do, and which allowed us to compensate about 20% for the loss of our turnover, is to sell more in butcher shops, which started to order more from us, and in supermarket butcher shops that weren’t used to doing it. In troubleshooting of course. But these sales are still limited and they are short-term because the supply chains, which have their own distribution centers, will adjust over time in relation to the quantities requested. And we have already started to live it. Last week, it was quieter with these new sales in supermarkets.

What we decided to do, ten days ago, is to turn directly to the consumer. And even if I cannot say that there was a boom, we saw that there was an interesting market to develop. But unfortunately we cannot do it overnight. It’s a long process. There is a bond of trust to be established with people. By being a first level distributor, our suppliers are producers and importers, when the products come from outside. We are on the first line of purchase. Somewhere, you can’t buy more directly from producers than from Viandex, otherwise it would be buying from the slaughterhouse. So that puts us in an interesting position. And we have an extraordinary line of almost 2000 products. What we now offer our customers is a simplified list. People can call us (418 681-2482). Developing this new clientele is a facet ofbusiness that we will be working very hard over the next few weeks.

Q After the crisis?

A It is obvious that once the crisis is over, we will continue to develop direct sales to consumers. Diversifying your clientele is like managing an investment portfolio. The more diverse you are, the better and the more sheltered you are when glitches arrive, as is the case now. Diversifying our clientele by adding direct sales to consumers is not only interesting for our business, but since we are also extremely competitive in terms of prices, it is also for the people who buy from us.

Q The consequences of the crisis?

A The crisis will shake up the world of food, for sure. I think people’s habits will change. We currently offer ready-made products and I am the owner of a company that will soon start producing ready-to-eat ready meals. I believe that the ready meals will take on an even greater dimension, as will the products with a local flavor. I also think that the government will help local producers to highlight their products. And I am convinced as a distributor that it will give something.

Q Good news?

A We think the price of lobster will be a lot cheaper this year. It is expected to decrease due to the crisis. And because we do not know if the big chains will market it as they did, we expect a fairly interesting period for specialists like us.

In these times of isolation, it is essential for me to sta

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