FredBarnes3663Once they called it simply catering. Then as the marketing men took over, it became foodservice. But when Fred Barnes left Booker to head up the company we now know as 3663, he did not forget that whatever the terminology, a wholesaler will only prosper if he understands and meets customer needs as a partner.

His vision built a company with sales which now exceed £1 billion a year.

Barnes has now stepped down from 3663 but his legacy, in the shape of a company which set new standards of detailed knowledge of its customers and how their needs can be met in a partnership, lives on.

Bidvest, the parent company of 3663, has asked him to sit on the main board as a non-executive director and retain direct responsibility for Ontime Automotive.

Bidvest CEO Brian Joffe paid tribute to Barnes, saying: “I thank Fred for driving the Bidvest business forward in Europe. Everyone who has worked with him, employees and customers alike, knows the contribution he has made.”

Barnes galvanised the conventional wholesaling world when he renamed his company 3663 – spelling out ‘food’ on a phone keypad – and setting the pace in building a customer base which recognised both multiple catering organisations and independent businesses.

Insisting on providing the customer with everything he needs, Barnes leaves 3663 with a portfolio which includes ingredients, finished product and equipment.


“The 3663 proposition of down to earth negotiation, avoiding red tape and complex procedures has become the industry standard to be aimed for,“ said a customer.

A competitor recalled how Barnes launched the company campaign to recognise concerns for the environment. Barnes went against the industry grain when he agreed with the introduction of congestion charges in London while others objected to them on the grounds of cost.

In 2003, the 3663 Environment Management System was awarded ISO 14001, the first company in wholesaling to be recognised with this award. 3663 holds the Royal Warrant for groceries and frozen foods.

Barnes, who took part in and supported many cross-industry  organisations and lobbies, was among the first to recognise changing consumer demand requiring healthier eating products. More than 300 products have been launched with reduced salt content.

The customer base now exceeds 30,000. They can choose from a catalogue of ambient, fresh, frozen and non-food items.

3663 Wholesale and Logistics will continue under the long standing leaderships of Alex Fisher and Andrew Selley who have both been managing these businesses since the formation of 3663.

In common with many multi-nationals Bidvest, the world’s largest food distributor outside the US, is collecting all its operations into a single international business unit to maximise its global influence.

Heading up the global foodservice business will be Bernard Benson, who has extensive experience of the markets in Asia, Pacific and South Africa.

“Customers will see no change in their operations, and we look forward to closer co-operation between our partners throughout the world,” said Bernard.

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