Quality Foods: Appetite for Growth

By: Evarn Covich


One of south-east Queensland’s largest food distribution businesses is poised to expand after investing in a new refrigerated truck fleet

 

Quality Food Services general manager Brian Saharin

 

When Frank De Pasquale and Glen Bound joined forces to expand on their range of hotdogs and lasagne sold to school tuck shops in the late ’80s, they may not have envisaged that over the next 30 years the business would evolve into a major player in the food and beverage supply industry in Queensland; or that the journey would lead them to opening the doors on a new multi-million dollar state-of-the-art distribution facility in Pinkenba, Brisbane.

Quality Food Services’ humble beginnings started in 1988, selling ‘Dinkum Dog Hot Dogs’. In time, the name changed to ‘Oz Dogs Hot Dogs’ and a few more product lines were added, including chicken burgers and lasagne.

The company then started marketing its range of products into schools and quickly gained a reputation for ‘quality’ and ‘service’. Over the years, Quality Food Services expanded more into schools and soon had a small pantry list of about 20 products, essentially for the school market.

In 1998, Quality Food Services merged with the Tuckshop Warehouse, a business also catered toward supplying schools. Together they moved into Stafford and leased dry, chiller and freezer space from Arquilla Imports. Their core business was primarily in food service and they were importers of European foods.

Following the merger, the business grew quickly, supplying 400 schools with an enlarged product range of about 2,000 lines. In 2004, Quality Food Services purchased Arquilla Imports, a significant milestone that enabled the company to offer a full range of products for schools and general food service customers.

And, in 2010, Quality Food Services merged with Healthy Canteens, cementing its business in the schools market and expanding its range to include drinks and confectionery, in addition to its extensive range of dry, chiller and frozen products.

Together, the team concentrated on growing the business over the next seven years and, in early 2017, Quality Food Services began to acquire a number of beverage businesses in its quest to further expand the product range and add variety for its clientele.

Recipe for Success

Quality Food Services now supplies about 6,000 food service, beverage and gourmet products to some 6,000 clients, with the majority of these buyers situated in south-east Queensland. A few north Queensland customers are serviced via third-party freighters. Schools have gone from 100 per cent of business to around 20 per cent.

General manager Brian Saharin believes the reason the company has managed to climb into the top five food service providers in south-east Queensland is its focus on delivering excellent service to clients.

Being smaller and nimbler, the company is able to react to customer needs with more ease as opposed to larger corporates that have set protocols in place that can hamper even the slightest change to an order at short notice.

The company has also embraced gourmet products, a niche market that some of the bigger players seem a little reluctant to delve into. This enables Quality Foods to supply around 700 beverage products, a number Saharin feels puts it ahead of competitors reluctant to carry such an extensive range of liquid refreshments.

 

Inside Quality Food Services' new 11,000sqm Pinkenba facility

 

Growth Pains

Following two decades of rapid growth, which saw staff numbers swell to 160, including 45 drivers and 50 operational staff, the company outgrew its original facility in the north Brisbane suburb of Stafford. After an 18-month search, directors found a site with good motorway access and ample room for expansion.

The company then began the arduous task of building the new storage and distribution hub – a task made more complex by the site’s location on Commonwealth land and close proximity to the Brisbane airport. The end result, however, is a brand-new state-of-the-art facility with numerous safety features.

Located at Pinkenba, the building measures in at an impressive 11,000 square metres under roof, has four temperature zones and houses nine height-adjustable loading docks. This has enabled the company to consolidate its entire product range under one roof, effectively creating a one-stop shop storage and distribution centre.

A challenge posed by the new loading docks was that Quality Food Services’ existing fleet of trucks had to be modified in order to allow for rear loading. The trucks were previously hand loaded through the side.

This called for 14 refrigerated truck bodies to be modified to allow for rear loading; six new refrigerated bodies to be fitted to existing cab-chassis; and the purchase of 13 brand-new Hino 1426 cab-chassis from Brisbane dealer Sci-Fleet with multi-temperature compartment refrigerated bodies.

The upside is that the distribution team is now able to work smarter not harder by being able to pick, wrap and load orders as opposed to picking, consolidating and hand loading. This has enabled the company to minimise the amount of times that a product needs to be handled, which in turn increases efficiency and productivity.

Healthy Relationships

After researching different suppliers and products, the company settled on Transport Refrigerated Services (TRS), a leading refrigerated body builder and service provider. As well as being the New South Wales distributor for Thermo King temperature-control systems, the Sydney-based company is also the national supplier of Thermaxx bodies, recognised worldwide for its high-insulating properties as well as high-impact resistance and non-moisture absorbing properties.


TRS sold its 1,000th Thermaxx Advantage rigid truck body to a Victorian egg-distributor in 2016. Check out our story from the time here


Saharin says a key deciding factor was that TRS was the only company that talked about the ‘K’ value. ‘K’ value refers to conductivity of heat or insulative properties of the body; in short, the better the build, the better the insulation, which results in a lower ‘K’ value. The higher the ‘K’ value, the more your refrigeration unit will have to work in order to keep your load cool, which equates to lost efficiency.

This value will probably become more prominent in time as it is now a requirement in cartage contracts with some of the larger supermarket chains around the country.

Through a previous employer, Saharin experienced first-hand the benefits of Thermaxx bodies. The company would regularly get 600,000km out of a cab-chassis, at which time it would remove and refurbish the body and then put it on a new cab-chassis, utilising it for a further 600,000km.

According to Saharin, these numbers were not achieved when using other makes of insulated bodies as they didn’t seem to be constructed as sturdy or were able to stand up to the rigours that some of the rougher operators would throw at them day-to-day.

Additionally, safety features like grab handles on the back, fold-down stairs, non-slip floors, alarms, and lighting are also well constructed. In his opinion, along with ease of operation, Thermaxx offers excellent value for money.

Saharin says the move into the beverage market created the need to upsize trucks due to the extra weight of carrying a liquid load. The Hino 1426s allow for a 14-tonne gross vehicle mass (GVM) and sport the Thermo King T1200R refrigeration unit on their insulated bodies.

While this is larger than needed for such a body, which can carry up to eight pallets, Quality Food Services wanted to be confident that each temperature zone would be optimised to its fullest at all times.

Once drawings and design specs were finalised and the order placed with TRS, it wasn’t long before Saharin was flown to Sydney to inspect the first body that rolled off the line.

After rectifying one minor afterthought, the 13 new trucks were delivered in quick succession over the following five weeks. Saharin couldn’t commend the TRS team enough with their courtesy and professionalism, which, along with the ease of access to salespeople and management to answer any question – no matter how trivial – made the building process move along seamlessly.

Where to now?

Three recent acquisitions will be moved into the new distribution centre over the coming months, with another maybe early next year.

These may also require up to another 20 new smaller vehicles with city box insulated bodies in order to provide a preferential service to a certain sector of the client base.

The city box units are also small enough that they can be driven on a car license, which opens the realms up to a much larger pool of potential delivery drivers. Coupled with a modern logistical monitoring system, the operator will have all the details needed on a hand-held device in order to safely make the deliveries in a timely manner.

Quality Food Services is looking to go live with the OPSI system in late August. This GPS system will be able to optimise drivers’ routes and prioritise deliveries to increase efficiency, as well as keeping track of driver hours that they’re legally allowed to work and giving real-time vehicle locations back to the office, which will help when trying to shuffle loading dock times.

With the company now in its new facility and embracing the era of GPS logistical monitoring systems, Quality Food Services is on track to achieve its target of a $250 million turnover in the next five years … an amazing achievement given the business’s humble beginnings back in the ‘80s.

 

The company’s Hino fleet contains Thermo King refrigeration units

 

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