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Recently I did a spot of restaurant consultancy in the north at the newly refurbished Ye Horns Inn based in Goosnargh, Lancashire. My column this month is about how cheese is sold to restaurants and presented to guests. It also highlights how greedy a few of those giant wholesalers can be.
Wholesalers of cheese to the on trade should be properly advising restaurants about their cheese choice. They should be sending in samples or meeting at the customer’s site for tastings. Regular discussions with the restaurant/hotel/farm shop about cheese seasonality and provenance should be the norm.
Sadly though, it appears that when large wholesalers bag new customers via their huge sales teams, the communication (after the commissions are paid off) very quickly drops off. Of course, there are some great wholesalers out there. Today good large wholesalers are few and far between. A lot of the wholesalers’ needs seem purely based on making money as quickly as possible, by whatever means.
I was recently in discussions with a huge and very well-known wholesaler. I was the agent connecting a fabulous producer of raw milk cheese to this giant London wholesaler and front-facing cheese shop. The product I was recommending is sublime. The work that goes into producing this cheese is unending. It is a pity that the conversation with this particular global and national distributor of cheese was centred around getting the lowest price from the producer.
Reassuringly this cheesemaker, with advice, dug his heels and said no to dropping the price of his cheese. The spiralling costs associated with cheese production today is especially being felt by artisan cheesemakers. Producers are being continually bullied to lower prices, so that the wholesale giants and large online cheese shops can reap the dividends, without getting their hands remotely dirty.
As a wholesaler and a cheesemonger I offer a bespoke service to new customers and onward advice. We offer training courses to hotel and restaurant staff that I foot the bill for. As far as cheese is concerned, I readily accept the price from the producers for onward wholesale and shop sales. We charge a fair price for our artisan cheese. We are always there for the customers and regularly check in with them to ensure that they are happy with the product and service that they receive.
One other such wholesaler that I should mention is The Crafty Cheese Man. Jonathan (originally from Bushey) settled in Lancashire several years ago with his Northern Lass. He is a wholesaler of cheese but like me he is different. He is passionate and gives a damn. Jonathan will travel miles, like we do at No2, to find exceptional cheese made by wonderful caring people. Yes he is a business, but like No2 the foundations of his company are based on ethical and sustainable practices. His work ethic and care for the produce he sells is ingrained. This knowledge and passion are shared with all of his customers. This is something that good wholesalers and cheesemongers do naturally.
As a result of consultations with great restaurants such as Ye Horns Inn, with wholesalers like The Crafty Cheese Man and No2 Pound Street we are beginning to see great eateries understanding how cheese should be served. Importantly wholesalers like No2 Pound Street offer honest training for those teams that are stages, showcasing the greatest food on the planet…. namely cheese.
Check out Ye Horns in Goosnargh, Lancashire, where you will find an awesome cheeseboard. Last week it included Mrs Kirkham’s, St Jude and Stichelton, how delicious! The best thing is the cheese served here is provided by a small and passionate wholesaler, who also helps provide the script for the team to upsell brilliantly.