BlueCart has a new business partner in the UK - Comesto. Promoting BlueCart software to hospitality venues and suppliers to the industry via their membership based platform, Comesto supplies a broad range of facilities to increase choice of goods and services to industry buyers and helps suppliers to reach their target clients.
We caught up with Valentine Smith, CEO of Comesto, to ask about their plans for growing BlueCart's presence in the UK. and gain some insight into current food and drink issues and trends in the UK marketplace.
BC: Thanks for your time Valentine. You obviously saw something in BlueCart that resonated with the needs of your marketplace. Why BlueCart and which parts of the service most impresses your clients?
V: Thanks Will and a great question to start with. For Comesto it was two main needs that BlueCart covered. Firstly, BlueCart is a very specific hospitality software solution, something we knew our clients were searching for. Comesto is a membership based platform, essentially an industry wide marketing service building business opportunities for our clients, but not a software service. Our clients were asking us for something to drive hard nosed business efficiency and BlueCart fills that need.
Secondly, Comesto delivers equally for buyers and suppliers and BlueCart is designed that way too, in fact we see that this is the major USP that BlueCart offers and this is the biggest single facility that will drive sales in the UK.
BC: In practice just how important is this industry wide philosophy that both companies share?
V: I believe it’s absolutely key in a B2B environment. I started off my career working in logistics in the Scottish whisky industry and I quickly discovered that you only achieve business efficiency when the supply chain is supported at all key points. This is where Comesto and BlueCart are on the same page. In fact when I first had a conversation with BlueCart CEO Konstantin Zvereff, I quickly sensed that he had created a client facing philosophy that closely matched ours and was providing real answers to real problems. This approach is impressing our clients and our joint offer is starting to create a real buzz.
BC: So BlueCart is getting UK market traction by the breadth of its offer, what other functionalities are getting your clients excited?
V: You get a real sense that the equal balance philosophy quickly transfers to its functionality. It’s not just the efficiency that BlueCart offers, it’s a real sense of communication, enabling buyers and suppliers to do business, minimizing friction. Add in low entry costs, ease of setup and use and you can see why it works.
BC: Tell me more about Comesto, it makes sense at its core, but it's also a new sort of concept. Is the market ready for it?
V: The market is ready, I suppose we share with BlueCart a sense of breaking new ground by addressing the business pains found in the back office. There’s a lazy stereotype of old school pub landlords and too busy chefs not being the easiest people to sell to. But operators have bought into front of house solutions, (booking systems, shift software, POS, etc) and these same operators are now looking at procurement and business management and this is where we step in.
As for the concept - it’s not completely new, just new for hospitality. We simply cure business pains by inviting everyone to the party, joining the dots and supplying enough information and guidance to enable people to source what they need to run an efficient business. Houzz is probably the best known example of the concept in action. They own interior decor, with ideas, advice and a smart way of connecting professionals to projects to get the best job done. We are now doing the same thing for hospitality. Giving suppliers parity and profile, cutting costs and raising the offer for venue managers.
BC: Aside from the core service, are there any trends in food and drink in the UK that our clients elsewhere in the world need to know about?
V: In food, bar snacks are still big news, ubiquitous big brands and standard ideas won’t satisfy. Clients expect these to be supplemented by imaginative fresh offers. (Kimchi or Sauerkraut to accompany meaty snacks, a range of dips with pork scratchings are recent trends). In restaurants it’s an awareness that grownups don’t always want three courses, so don’t push it too hard. And not before time in my opinion, plates are back in fashion - food served in or on buckets, planks and even slates is increasingly seen as dull.
For alcoholic drinks it’s all about quality and choice. Wine lists are deepening and specialist or artisan spirits and beers are increasing in stocked availability and people are asking for what they want by brand. People are prepared to spend more if the perception and reality is that they are buying quality.
BC: What are some industry challenges that this partnership will resolve?
V: Small business growth is an incredibly daunting hurdle, and the BlueCart - Comesto package gives those people the ability to scale. We see this as "business in a box," an essential starting block for new entrants in the market. Not only that, but for established businesses and enterprises this partnership offers a management tool to control their procurement process and measure the efficiencies on a site-to-site basis. Connecting Comesto to BlueCart simplifies the offer for wholesalers. Comesto opens them up to supplying a range that is broader than their catalogue or warehousing capacity and BlueCart enables them to manage the process.
BC: And next steps for Comesto? And for your partnership with BlueCart?
V: I think we need to push harder on giving our clients even more access to quality and choice. We know that there’s such a great range of food and drink products readily available in the US that we simply don’t see and we would like to invite these producers to sell to the UK market via Comesto. And the same in the UK, our specialist food and drinks go down really well with US buyers, but they need more exposure, we just need to smooth out the supply process. And this is where we feel that BlueCart comes in - we do the matchmaking, BlueCart ensures the relationship works - now that could be really exciting and good business.