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Food Suppliers into Hospitality: Breaking Into New Markets After the Pandemic

Updated: Jun 6, 2022

Food supply in crates

Over the past year, businesses from all over the UK, in a wide range of sectors, have been hit hard by the pandemic and ensuing lockdowns.

One of the hardest-hit sectors was the hospitality sector with restaurants, cafes, bars etc. being forced to close multiple times throughout the lockdowns the UK has endured.

Now that the UK is coming out of lockdown, pubs, bars and restaurants have been allowed to reopen. However, some haven’t been so fortunate and have been forced to close permanently, unable to recover from the losses caused by the pandemic.

While these businesses that are reopening will have a boom in business with customers eager to get back to eating and drinking out, if you’re a supplier to these businesses, you may now be facing a dilemma, with some of your customers, who ran local, independent establishments going out of business.

Due to the effects of the pandemic, the hospitality market has changed. Larger chain groups have been able to get back on their feet rather quickly, but if your main customer market consists of smaller, independent pubs, bars, and restaurants your target market may have shrunk considerably, for example the casual dining sector has reportedly shrunk by 15.8%.

So with your target market narrowing, how do you open up your business to wider markets in the hospitality industry that have a consistent need for your services?

You need to first establish the industries to target, and then you need a plan of action for how you are going to approach them.

What Other Markets Could You Target?

If you are looking into new markets to target, you need to identify who has the most need, whether this need is likely to change as the pandemic subsides, and ultimately, whether it is a sustainable target for your business.

Care/Nursing Homes

One of the industries that has had an unwavering, and in some cases increased, demand for food supply/catering services is the care sector.

While the care industry has struggled throughout the pandemic, nursing homes and care homes across the country have continued to operate and have had a constant need for food and other consumables for their residents.

As care homes look after residents for years, sometimes decades depending on the type of care provided, this need for regular food supplies isn’t going to be going away. Individual care home’s needs may fluctuate or change as residents come and go, but on the whole, their need is going to be consistent.

If you supply food products to restaurants, cafes, bars etc., this could be a great place to start if you’re looking to target a new sector.


Throughout the pandemic, hospitals have been functioning at a much higher capacity than usual, and with the opening of specialised COVID facilities (Nightingale Hospitals), there has been an increase in demand for food and consumables than before the pandemic.

This has provided an opportunity for more food suppliers to support these facilities by distributing larger, more frequent deliveries of food supplies and consumables to newly established and busier hospital facilities.

Unlike care homes, as the pandemic eases, patient capacity will begin to come down and return to ‘normal’, meaning their requirements will change. Of course, their need for food supplies will always be present, however, with fewer beds filled, their quantities will be lower.

Breaking Into These Markets

Once you’ve identified your targets, how do you plan on approaching them? With most likely all of them having a supplier in place already, how do you capture their attention? What can you offer them that perhaps their current supplier isn’t? And how do you communicate this to them?

Reaching Out With a Targeted Campaign

While social media has played a big role in maintaining engagement for countless businesses over the past year, when trying to penetrate and establish a position in a new market, you need something more proactive – which is where telemarketing comes in.

When approaching new targets, it’s vital to learn more about their needs, their struggles, and their current solutions as well as introducing your business and how you can help. Picking up the phone and speaking to these target organisations is the quickest and most effective way to gather information and get these conversations started.

When entering a new market that you haven’t tackled before, you’re going to be going up against different people than you usually deal with.

​In this case, in the care and health industry, relevant decision-makers, like care home managers or hospital procurement managers can be much harder to reach than your typical local pub or restaurant owner.

As well as knowing how to get hold of these decision-makers effectively, one of the biggest challenges you will be facing is how you are going to persuade these targets to switch from their current supplier to you.

Establishing Your Hook

When speaking with a prospect that is already in a contract with another supplier, you’ll need to provide some sort of incentive or resolve an issue that they have with their current supplier. This is where you’ll need to use the information that you gather on the call, to tailor your pitch to the individual prospect.

To give an example, one of the biggest and widely-known pain points that care establishments and the entire NHS is facing, is very tight budgets and in some cases serious underfunding.

With that in mind, could you offer to match or beat their current supplier’s prices? Can you beat their current suppliers on quality and value for money? If not, what are you offering them and would it be enough to sway their decision?

Opportunity Qualification

When reaching out to care homes and hospitals, you need to make sure they meet your qualification criteria.

Your qualification criteria needs to cover four key areas: Budget, Authority, Need, Timescale (BANT).

Budget, authority, need and timescale checklist

First off, you need to establish what their budget is for food and consumables. What are they currently paying? Is your pricing higher or lower? Can they afford to do business with you?

Secondly, is the person you are speaking with in charge of the purchasing and contract decisions? If not, who is? Speaking with someone who doesn’t have the authority to make these decisions is a waste of your time and theirs.

Next, do they need your services? We’ve already established that care homes and hospitals will always have a need for food services, however, if the prospect is happy with their current supplier and has no desire to switch, do they need your services?

Finally, there’s timescale. To effectively qualify opportunities and manage your follow-up actions, you need to know when they would be looking to go ahead. If they are locked in a contract for the next 6 months with another supplier, then you’ll need to wait and call back nearer the time. If they are looking for a new supplier right now, then that’s a hot opportunity that you need to prioritise.

Time, Money, and Resources

When establishing your campaign, you’ll need to dedicate a considerable amount of time to the planning, setup, and execution of the campaign. You’ll need to allocate resources, in this case staff, to man the phones and make these outbound calls. And of course, you’ll need an appropriately sized budget for data acquisition, software and subscription costs, equipment and more.

Campaign budget allocation

In other words, if you’re looking to break into new markets, it's going to take a lot of time, money, and effort to build your campaign, and even then there’s no guarantee that you’ll see the results you were hoping for.

This is where outsourcing comes into play, and can not only take the hassle of running an in-house campaign off of your hands but can also enhance the results.

Why is Outsourcing Your Best Option?

Entering new markets can be a difficult, stressful, and heavily time-consuming task if you don’t have the right experience or knowledge of the markets you’re attempting to break into. ​If you’re in this position and attempt to do this yourself, you could just be pouring money into an in-house campaign that will get you absolutely nowhere.

Outsourcing a project like this doesn’t just mean you’re delegating it elsewhere to free up your time, if you choose a partner that has the right knowledge and demonstrated experience in your target markets, your campaign is likely to have more of an impact and a considerable return on your investment.

Outsourcing metal bass hitting other metal balls with the word success on it

At River, we specialise in providing fully qualified lead generation and appointment setting campaigns through targeted telemarketing activities.

​Our telemarketing team have an unmatched level of experience when it comes to reaching key decision-makers in the care sector, having helped dozens of businesses establish, grow, and expand their market position and sale pipelines.

When it comes to establishing your position in a new market, our telemarketers fully reflect your business’ values to represent your business accurately and appropriately, acting as an extension to your business rather than an external team.

If you’re looking to break into new sectors and markets as we come out of lockdown, get in touch to find out how we can help you quickly and effectively establish a strong market presence, or visit our services page to find out more!


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