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Bouncing Back Q&A: Michael Saunders, Bibendum

Published:  02 August, 2021

It’s been a one-of-a-kind 18 months for the trade. Here, as we begin to push into the second half of the second year of the pandemic, Harpers is catching up with businesses to find out how they’re focusing on recovering from the shock, and what challenges and opportunities lie ahead.

We begin our series with Bibendum CEO Michael Saunders.

How ‘back to normal’ are you as a business?

We are definitely back to normal. There is a sense in the trade that, despite there still being ongoing issues from the pandemic, most customers are back to trading as usual, and are busier than ever. There are some sectors that are not quite up to speed as yet. We have had all our staff back for a number of months now; and we are starting to see a steady trickle of producers coming over to see us.   

What are your priorities and predictions for the second half of 2021?

For the second half of 2021, we will be going full steam ahead into Christmas, making sure we can deliver the great customer service that our customers expect and deserve from us. We will also be focusing on ranging, along with welcoming some new producers to our portfolio. We also have plans for a series of dynamic events across the country. It will be a fantastic opportunity to say thank you to our customers and producers, and to see them in person. At last!

What kind of Christmas are you anticipating and how are you prepping?

If the first half of this year is anything to go by, this Christmas is set to be incredibly busy, especially given what happened last year with lockdowns. I think there is huge pent-up demand for a ‘normal’ festive season. Not only are we making sure we have great availability for our customers, but also streamlining delivery and operations so we can support them in delivering a record-breaking Christmas.  

Do you anticipate making a full recovery from the pandemic? What timeframes are realistic?

A number of different factors have made this year particularly difficult, the combination of Brexit and Covid especially. I think realistically it will take another year or so to fully recover. Saying that, we are well on our way to seeing the same sort of sales volumes as pre-Covid. 

How heavily have you been impacted by staffing issues?

Staffing issues are industry wide and we definitely have seen a knock-on effect. Saying that, we have a dynamic plan in place to address them.

Are you anticipating more Covid-related restrictions?

I’m naturally a glass half full person so I’m genuinely hoping for no more. But who knows…

How have drinking habits changed post-lockdown?

We’ve seen an uptake in drinks you can’t replicate at home, great cocktails, etc. At the same time there is a huge appetite for better wine, and people are treating themselves, buying more expensive wines.  

Lastly, if you could make one change in government tomorrow, what would you choose?

Improved consistency and planning.

Quick-fire questions:

France, Spain or Italy?

All – haven’t been to any since 2019. Crazy…

USA or OZ?


Port or Sherry?

Sherry – just love it. As I do Port, but you asked for a choice.

English bubbles or Champagne?

2021 has been English for me – inspiring to see how the industry is progressing.

Go-to drink to watch with the Olympics / tennis / football?

Wine. Lots of good wine.