Joaquim Arasanz: "The foodservice cluster makes it necessary to carry out a long-term reflection"

Interview with Joaquim Arasanz, Guzmán Gastronomía General Manager

Guzmán Gastronomía supplies the foodservice channel, operating out of Mercabarna and Madrid. The general manager took part in the second conference on the Stimulus Plan for the Foodservice Cluster of Catalonia, held at Mercabarna, to discuss future sector trends.

Q- Please explain what your company does
A- We are a foodservice channel supplier. We offer around 4,000 references. Our speciality is fruit and vegetables, but we also have refrigerated products (cheeses, dairy products, etc.), as well as oil, rice and sugar; frozen foods (fruit, dough, soups, etc.), packaged ready-to-eat products and artisan bread. We have over 30 routes to cover Catalonia and eight that operate out of Madrid for the rest of Spain.

Q- Who are your clientele?
A- Our customers are in the medium to high segments of the channel, i.e., independent middle and top range restaurants, restaurant chains, four- and five-star hotels, and middle- to top-range catering firms. Since 2009 we have also targeted companies that supply hospitals, adult day centres, work cafeterias, etc.

Q- What do you think about the idea by the Barcelona Food Cluster Association and ACC1Ó to promote the foodservice cluster of Catalonia?
A- It’s a good initiative that will force us to carry out a medium- and long-term reflection. This will lead to projects that could be very interesting and may help us adopt winning strategies in the future. Particularly during tough times like now it helps us reassess things.

Q- For example?
A- With the downturn, we decided to open ourselves to another segment in the channel: groups. Our traditional customers, middle- to top-range restaurants, are particularly sensitive to economic fluctuations and more vulnerable to the effects of the crisis. So we chose to target these new customers who are more resistant to economic cycles, who can ensure sales volumes and who have very straightforward, easy-to-anticipate demands.

Q-What projects could emerge within the framework of the cluster?
A- They would probably be related to research, new product development, logistics (particularly sharing transportation), doing studies and learning more about customer requirements. In particular, I believe the cluster and, more specifically, the conferences taking place at Mercabarna within the Stimulus Plan, can be used to detect where the sector should be heading in the future.

Q- What do you think about working together with other companies?
A- It depends on the interests of each firm and on the particular project, but it could be a very positive experience. In fact we already have some practice in this field. We started sharing trucks with Compañía General Carnia, which also operates out of Mercabarna, to transport products to the Girona area, and it enabled us to increase our local presence there. I think that in terms of cooperation, companies that market fresh produce are starting from a good position.

Q-What do you mean?
A- We work with a product that forces us to deliver on particularly high demand and service levels. So we are starting off from a very good position with regard to developing joint projects. For example, creating the figure of a comprehensive sales manager who can assess and settle a restaurateur’s problems with regard to fruit and vegetables, meat or fish. In other words, providing the customer with solutions that go beyond the product.

Q- What do you think the future holds for the sector?
A- I think suppliers have to expand to cover the demands of some customers, such as restaurant chains, hotels and groups, which are getting bigger and bigger all the time and seeking nationwide suppliers with an extensive product range.

Q- And independent restaurants?
A- It’s hard to say, but with the downturn we will have to boost customer service by improving our telephone and logistics services and expanding our product range - but without losing our specialist nature.