Why we don't surrender to tender

That just about sums up how I feel about tenders. The excitement mounts as the deliciously attractive headline figures reach your inbox promising a wonderful partnership with a multi-site national brand looking for someone who understands provenance and consistency.

It sounds good doesn’t it? The buzz around a sales office as figures are banded about.

You sign into the tender documents which reach over 10 different attachments each with in excess of 40 discrete sections needing varying input from accounts, to quality assurance, purchasing, sales and directors.

They want to delve into your company and your relationships with other people deeper than a journalist digs dirt on a dodgy politician. Still, you continue to read, lured by the continued promises of quality and consistency and partnership.

You click on the product list … 90 percent of the time you are met with an unwieldy spreadsheet into which a simple cut and paste is impossible with 15 columns to complete, all with the unfamiliar packaging specification of the incumbent supplier meaning that you need to translate your own prices into 5 x this or that.

Then you search, desperately at times for a column telling you what the specification is – where does it come from? Country of Origin? Classification meat chart giving us some indication of age of animal at slaughter or hint at quality? It isn’t there.

This can’t be right? The documents before that drew you in were adamant that quality was key. You work your way through the reams of electronic paper to find, if you are lucky, a tender weighting: 60% is on price.

You pick up the phone and this is how it goes:

Supplier – “Hello, we would love to understand more of what you do and what you are looking for in a key supplier – could we meet please to see if we think we can work together“

Tender person – “We really are too busy at this stage gathering information so if you can just put it together (oh yes I forgot to say the deadlines are often 7 days turn around!) and we will look at all the tenders and get back to you (they do, sometimes 6 months later after much chasing).

The phone goes down. You then have a choice. You turn all your teams attention to this one document clinging on still to the hope (it’s not the despair I can’t cope with it’s the hope!), or you can shut up, move on as you politely decline (they are often horrified that you won’t tender).

I am left with the impression that they want a number to fill a gap for them – we need 6 butchers, 3 fish mongers and 2 grocers to tender, like a distorted happy families.

We choose to shut up and move on as without specification or a willingness to even meet to discuss how you could work together. We are turning our own industry into a commodities market who are racing to the bottom together. If tenders are your thing and you deal only in commodities; great.

We aren’t.  We deal in only the top 5% of beef and lamb in the world so why would we spend weeks or months working on a tender when all that happens is they look at the last page and see the cheapest price and go with that. We believe that if you have to purchase ingredients for your business it can either be a cost or investment and we work hard to help to be an investment in the marketing with our clients and help them grow.

Best put now in the words of the first American astronaut to orbit the earth ……

“I guess the question I’m asked the most often is:

“When you were sitting in that capsule listening to the count-down, how did you feel?”

Well, the answer to that one is easy. I felt exactly how you would feel if you were getting ready to launch and knew you were sitting on top of two million parts – all built by the lowest bidder on a government contract.”
― John Glenn , first American astronaut  to orbit the earth

Aberdeen Angus on Aubrey Allen farm trip

The average size of a single breed herd in England is 28-50 and yet to provide just 8 fillets per week from one farm to a restaurant requires one farm to have 600 cattle. Curious? Read on…

There is more Aberdeen Angus beef sold in this country than is ever produced. Belted Galloway graces more menus than pastures. Gloucester Old Spot pork is lesser spotted than you would be led to believe.

10 years ago the fashion for naming breeds and single farms really took off. The result? Producers and suppliers over promising and chefs having unrealistic aspirations on what is actually achievable.

It is more than that as well; there is still a lack of understanding of how farming works and what are the best criteria for knowing you have the best beef.

Let’s take the first bold statement: there is more Aberdeen Angus sold in this country than is ever produced. We have all seen the assertion by national burger chains that all their beef burgers are Angus –  how many of us also see the small print on the screen? 30 years ago the numbers of the Aberdeen Angus Society in the UK were dwindling. As the markets were flooded with continental breeds the Angus was out of favour. What did they do to increase their membership? They changed it from a pure breed society to one that would accept any beast that had been sired by an Angus bull. The result? Angus crossed with dairy producing a dairy steer slaughtered at 14 months – a world apart from the original vision and far cry from the best beef you can have.

Back to the decade of fashion and the single breed. We heard time and time again that an 80 cover restaurant for example was able to get pure breed from a single named farm for all of their beef fillets.

Let’s assume that they only want 8 whole fillets of beef per week. They will need to source from one farm that can produce finished cattle at the rate of 3 per week for 50 weeks of the year. That’s 150 cattle per year. In order to produce that level of cattle, a farmer would need a herd of 600 cattle (if we agree that proper suckler beef cattle take between 3-3 ½ years from conception to finish).

The average herd size of a single breed cattle in England is 28-50 cows. Then you consider how many single farm pure breeds appear on menus.

To learn more about the questions to ask to make sure you are getting the best beef, contact our sales team on 02476 422222 or come and visit us at our next chefs day


Lucianne Allen at Aubrey Allen's Big Apprenticeship Day

Butchers continue to help shape a sustainable future for the industry!  

For the second time, Aubrey Allen has held their unique event at their Academy to bring apprentices from the farming, butchery and catering community together in a fitting end to National Apprentice Week 2019.

Aubrey Allen, award winning National Butcher based in Coventry worked with colleges and restaurants to create a unique Apprenticeship day. The idea was to give the apprentices an opportunity to shape their own future by facilitating a day of introductions and shared vision.

There were short talks from inspirational award winning Farmer, James Evans, European Champion Butcher, Michael Perkins alongside Aubrey Allen Managing Director Russell Allen and Chef, Andreas Antona, to set the tone for the day, which was all about working together to make the future of British food more secure and better than ever.

Lucianne Allen, Sales and Marketing Director at Aubrey Allen, said

“The day was about the apprentices, them working together, understanding the food chain from the farmer to the chef. If we want a sustainable farming future in this country and people passionate about growing great food for the plate it starts here.

The day revolved around group discussions focusing on what factors each sector considered when rearing or purchasing meat and what benefits there would be to join those thoughts up to create one vision of a more sustainable future. They all took part in a chicken butchery demonstration, a beef tasting session and finished with a dragons den style presentation from the students.

Zac Whittle, Galvin Restaurants  

It was very interactive and insightful. The apprentices really enjoyed it and left with lots of knowledge. It definitely got them thinking about where and how the food comes into the kitchen as well as what they see at the supermarket. The speakers were great! Sign us up for next time.

Bryan Anderson, Stratford College

A massive thank you, the event was superbly well organised and the content was timed perfectly to keep the students interest. We would love to be involved again next year.

Aubrey Allen Dry Aged Beef

Would you ever pick up the phone to a wine merchant and ask “how much please for a bottle of wine” ?

I doubt it . You may call and enquire about the Chateau LaFite Rothschild if budget permits or you may have to settle for the Gallo Family vineyards.

Would you expect those 2 bottles of wine though to be quoted for as “a bottle of wine” or would you expect it to be widely different?

From trade to consumer everyone understands the general difference in wine pricing; how much is available, the terroirs, the grape, the methods and age and nobody would dream of saying such diverse wines were comparable.

And yet, as a meat industry, that is what we are faced with daily – invitations to tender for business with a product list that reads  “sirloin steak” “rib eye steak” “rack of lamb”; no provenance never mind true specification according to the European wide classification scale.

When you judge a product simply by price rather than reference to eating quality, ethical rearing, age of cattle at slaughter, time spent dry ageing, you not commoditise that product but devalue our whole industry; if we as the experts don’t revere fantastic produce, how can we expect this in consumers?

The meat industry at abattoirs rate carcasses via a classification system and there are 56 different classifications and that’s before you look into specific geographical rearing, specific breeds and dry ageing which brings its own extra level of specification. Where does this appear on a purchaser’s invitation to tender? It doesn’t.

If we allow purchasers who do not understand about meat purchasing to buy solely on price, then it is just a race to the bottom. Guess what happens next? You have meat scandals like horse gate. You have 6 major catering butchers going bust within the last 12 months. What next? When will we stop being shocked by these scandals and closures and start accepting that we need to truly value our ingredients?

To find out more come and visit us at our next chefs day or book a private unit visit.


Aubrey Allen wins Chefs Choice Award

Aubrey Allen butchers in Warwickshire are celebrating as they have won the Chef’s favourite Butcher for the 8th time.

The Restaurant Magazine which represents news stories for food service, runs a competition annually where chefs can vote for their favourite products, suppliers, and brands in the hospitality sector. Thousands of chefs voted for the awards and Aubrey Allen was voted Best Meat Supplier.

Managing Director Russell Allen said “ We are thrilled to have been named as the chef’s favourite supplier once again. We are so lucky to have such a dedicated team who understand our values”.

Award winning butchers, Aubrey Allen are celebrating again as their founder’s granddaughter has scooped a National Industry Award.

Lucianne Allen, a former criminal Barrister, has worked in the family business for 10 years and on Friday received Meat Businesswoman of the Year – Wholesaling at the first Women in Meat Industry Awards.

The awards held by Meat Management at the Royal Kensington Garden Hotel on the 16th November relied on votes from people within the industry after Lucianne was shortlisted for the awards and went on to receive most votes.

Speaking about the success Lucianne said ” to be recognised as a business woman means the world to me; having changed careers 10 years ago and having no formal qualifications in business I am delighted with the result. I invest a great deal of time in studying business books and videos to help build great teams which I am lucky enough to have . My all female marketing team entered me without my knowledge which was a bit sneaky but they are vindicated now I suppose! I hope it will inspire other woman to go into the meat industry and use their talents to improve the industry and also create a great lifestyle for themselves.”



Butchers named best family business 2018

Award winning family butchers, Aubrey Allen, have won Family Business of the Year award at the Coventry Telegraph Business Awards .

The awards held on Tuesday night, were hosted at the Ricoh arena, Coventry with over 600 people and Aubrey Allen, who started in Coventry in 1933 were awarded the prestigious award, flying the flag once again for Butchery in the business world.

The awards were judged on who from the family business were active in the company, how did they continue to develop their learning and how did they help their teams.

Lucianne Allen, sales and marketing director, who collected the award with Simon Smith, client services director said “ a family business isn’t made just by having family members; it’s the values, the atmosphere and the talent you nurture that really makes it feel like a family. In our awards nomination a video of Ray from our sales team who has been with us for over 27 years was included and Simon Smith who went from Saturday boy 30 years ago to Director. It’s making the whole team feel like a family which encourages staff to stay and allows us to drive the business forward.“

Lucianne Allen nominated in Women In Meat Industry Awards 2018

Granddaughter of the company founder Aubrey, has been nominated in this year’s Inaugural Women in Meat Industry Awards which take place in London on 16th November 2018.

Lucianne, Sales and Marketing Director has been nominated in one of six categories, Meat Businesswoman Award – Wholesaling by her colleagues.

The award is voted for by her industry colleagues, customers, and chefs with Lucianne one of four shortlisted for the award.

To support Lucianne, cast your vote here before Tuesday 31st July

Lucianne was brought up in the industry through her father’s butcher shops. She trained as a barrister and enjoyed 10 successful years at the criminal bar before re-joining the family business in 2008. As Sales and Marketing Director, Lucianne is fully immersed in the day to day running of the business which has over 170 staff. Declining to have her own office when the wholesale premises were recently expanded, Lucianne sits herself within the heart of the sales team where she leads by example, talking and meeting with customers and building great partnerships with chefs and establishments. She is constantly seeking to review and improve the business, and never rest on your laurels is something that she emits through the Aubrey Allen team.

This year, Lucianne has given one-to-one coaching to the sales team each week, which not only develops their skills but feeds through her drive for success that Lucianne is so passionate about. She leads from the front and involves everyone to maximise the potential of the business. She works closely with Russell, her brother and managing director providing a supporting role not only with the wholesale business, but the award winning retail shop Aubrey Allen Butchers and Deli, and Oscar’s French Steakhouse & Bistro.

In the last 18 months, Lucianne has established a marketing team across the business who support her with her vision of building on the relationships that Aubrey Allen have with their partners. As the business grows, Lucianne maintains the family ethos and company values that the team work with every day.

Passionate about education, Lucianne led the butchery industry as chair of the Trailblazers apprenticeship group which received ministerial approval in 2014 for butchery apprenticeships. Following on from that success, Lucianne helped to set up Aubrey’s Academy, a standalone butchery academy which Aubrey Allen use to educate within their own business as well as clients businesses. This year saw the first Big Apprenticeship Day which was held during National Apprenticeship Week. Apprentices from farming and catering were invited to join our butchery apprentices for an inspirational day led by Lucianne at Aubrey’s Academy in a bid to bridge the gap within these industries. She is now building on these links with local colleges who are eager to be a part of what Lucianne is achieving with education.

Lucianne regularly presents awards, most recently The National Restaurant Awards (Sustainable Restaurant of the Year) and was a keynote speaker at Meatup in 2017, providing a seminar on Butchery Apprenticeships , which was widely regarded as outstanding. She was invited to judge at the Publican Awards, as well as other national events as a speaker.

She has been instrumental in Aubrey Allen being awarded Best Catering Butcher twice this year as well as Best Restaurant for Oscar’s.

Her enthusiasm and drive is infectious, and one that keeps the business continually moving forward.




Warwickshire Butcher named best in England

Award winning Warwickshire Butcher, Aubrey Allen have been named Best Butcher in England by their peers.

In the industry Meat Management Awards, held in Birmingham on the 24th May 2018, Aubrey Allen were named Catering Butcher of the Year by leading industry judges.

Aubrey Allen, named after the founder, started in Coventry in 1933 and still have a popular butchers and deli shop in Leamington Spa. Aubrey Allen remains family owned and their philosophy on how they care for their staff reflects this.

Simon Smith, Director of Client Services collected the award and Simon is testament to the company’s attitude towards finding talent and nurturing it; Simon started as a Saturday boy in the shop back in 1986 and is now a Director.

Simon Said “We are delighted to receive this award. Being a family business, and we really do talk about being one family, everyone cares so much about getting it right for our clients. Our teams put passion and energy into all they do to make us better tomorrow than today and we never rest on our laurels. We will be celebrating with our teams and promoting some great products in our shop and to our chefs.“

Butchers help shape the future of farming and cooking

Aubrey Allen organised a unique event at their Academy to target Apprentices from the farming, butchery and chef’s community. We believe, a first in the food chain industry.

Aubrey Allen, award winning National Butcher based in Coventry worked alongside Paul Cadman from Crosby Management Training to create a unique Apprenticeship day. The idea was to give the apprentices an opportunity to shape their own future by facilitating a day of introductions and shared vision. There were 3 short talks from an inspirational Farmer – Robert Caldecott, Butcher Ambassador – Chris Riley and Chef – Andreas Antona, to set the tone for the day, which was all about working together to make the future of British food more secure and better than ever.

Lucianne Allen, Sales and Marketing Director at Aubrey Allen, said

Paul and I got to know each other well during the launch of the industry Standards for the Trailblazer Apprenticeships. We wanted the day to be about the Apprentices and what they want rather than being lectured to. We wanted them to create new ideas for how they could work together and understand their roles. If we want a sustainable farming future in this country and people passionate about growing great food for the plate it starts here

Rachel Barnwell, an agricultural intern at Aubrey Allen, helped to inspire the event and had already organised for 30 young farmers to attend an evening event at the Academy.

The Apprentices were treated to a great breakfast on arrival, there were group discussions about what factors each sector considered when rearing or purchasing meat and what benefits there would be to join those thoughts up to create one vision of a more sustainable future. They all took part in a hands on mini butchery tutorial and a beef tasting session.

Jason Hilliard, Harper Adams University

I feel the event was a massive success and the apprentices could not stop talking about the day for the entire return journey. They all seemed to take something different back from the event, from the practical chicken, to socialising with their peers from within the industry and also from the very inspirational speakers that were there. One thing that they could all seem to agree on though was how valuable and enjoyable they found the day.

A wonderful team environment was created from the start, everyone being there for the same thing and wanting to work towards a better future for both the entire industry (farm to fork) and for the success of the apprenticeships. By enhancing quality of produce, increasing pride in working in this most valuable of sectors and the willingness to work together to achieve this.

Stephane Cerisier, Firmdale hotels

I found it very interesting to have all different apprentices sharing ideas.

Bryan Anderson, Stratford College

The feedback we have received from the Apprentices has been outstanding, I fully understand the cost and time Aubrey Allen’s invested in this event and can’t thank you enough.

I would like to offer any help I can to develop this into a regular event and it would be lovely to see this model develop into regular events getting Apprentices together from various industries who share a common interest or goal.