Food company driver recruitment plan beats the pingdemic staffing problem

Harlech food services Ltd Director David Cattrall . Picture Mandy Jones

A leading food supply company is ahead of the curve after recruiting 15 drivers as a nationwide shortage made worse by the ‘pingdemic’ hits UK deliveries of fresh food.

Many supermarkets and wholesalers have been forced to reduce deliveries or even shut down and big gaps have appeared on the shelves as staff are forced to self-isolate after being pinged by NHS Track and Trace.

Harlech Foodservice, which has bases in Criccieth and Chester, had already geared up its delivery service by taking on an extra 15 drivers and is also taking on more warehouse staff to meet demand.

Managing Director David Cattrall said: “We have successfully recruited 15 drivers and our deliveries are rolling out as usual – we are even going out to pick up stock from suppliers who normally deliver to us.

“We are collecting 100 pallets a day that would normally be delivered to us and today that will include 26 pallets of ice to get our customers through this summer heatwave.

“This is a really busy time of the year for us here in North Wales as the schools have broken up and people are heading for the tourist spots across Mid and North Wales so it’s important to reassure our customers that they can rely on us for deliveries.

“It’s one of our busiest times of the year and it was something we had planned for so thankfully we have been able to cope and keep our customers supplied at their busiest time of the year.”

The reassurance from Harlech Foodservice comes as many in the sector were under stress with Richard Walker, head of Deeside-based grocery chain Iceland announcing their own plans to recruit 2,000 spare staff to help cover absences.

The retailer has been forced to reduce trading hours and even shut some stores as it experienced staff shortages caused by workers being pinged by the test-and-trace app.

Harlech has also already begun a special late night ordering service – customers can order up to 10pm at night to request stock on their website with night staff at Harlech’s depots working through the small hours to pick the orders for delivery the next morning.

It has proved very popular as hotels, guesthouses, caravans and campsites fill up in the sunshine and demand rockets.

David Cattrall said: “The 10pm order cut off has proved very popular with our customers as it allows them to place and increase orders at the end of service and that’s why we are looking to recruit at least 20 more warehouse nightshift staff at £10.69 an hour and with a £500 bonus if they stay with us to the end of September.

He added: “We’ve been able to afford these rises is because we have worked on improving our systems and working practices during lockdown, for example by improving our e-commerce website which makes it easier for customer to search for products and see our transparent prices.

Harlech Foodservice Ltd, which was founded in 1972, deliver more than 5,000 product lines to hotels, restaurants, cafés, pubs and public sector customers across Wales, Shropshire, the Midlands and the North West.

For more on Harlech Foodservices go to https://www.harlech.co.uk/