WHOLESALE giant Bidfood will today launch a new hospitality hub near Falkirk under plans to help Scottish food and drink suppliers boost sales.

The foodservice giant, which formerly traded as Bidvest 3663, declared its ambition for the Larbert facility to become a centre of excellence, at which hospitality operators can work on menu development and suppliers can test new products. It said it is the first centre of its kind for the wholesale industry in Scotland.

Katie Sillars, Bidfood’s business development manager for Scotland, said the hub will aim to offer a personalised service to the company’s 100 Scottish suppliers.

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The centre will allow suppliers to showcase their products to business owners to help ensure ranges are more in tune with customer demands, while a full-time development chef will be on hand to advise on menu development. Ferry operator CalMac recently developed its latest seasonal menu with advice from Bidfood.

Each of the hub’s rooms will have specialists dedicated to the different sectors Bidfood supplies, including baristas and equipment experts. The facilities include a fully-equipped kitchen, bar, formal dining restaurant and meeting rooms, with services such as staff training available. The hub will also be home to a cross-sector steering group, comprising universities, tourist operators, care homes and fine dining operators, who will advise on local sourcing and how suppliers can improve what they offer.

Bidfood did not disclose how much it has specifically spent on developing the hub, beyond noting that it was a “six-figure” investment. It will open 365 days a year, with sufficient capacity to ensure it can be used by all of its suppliers.

Ms Sillars, who joined Bidfood after selling out her stake in the Eat Balanced food brand, said the aim is not to make money for the wholesaler, but to boost suppliers’ sales.

“It’s all about offering innovation and added value for our customers,” she said. “The growth is really going to come from offering a personalised service to our customers. Instead of doing the traditional trade shows, and just a brochure, where we sometimes don’t get very much traction, we can get more traction if we offer a smaller environment, where we can match the needs of our customers to what our suppliers can offer.”

Ms Sillars added: “It’s about taking the existing suppliers we have and getting them in front of more and more customers. The hub is going to be integral to getting more of the bigger customers in front of these suppliers, and taking the suppliers from a regional to a national listing.”

The company, which has 450 employees in Scotland, serves around 5,000 customers north of the Border, including hotels, restaurants, cafes, and care homes. It also supplies the healthcare and education sectors.