I was reminded how insular the foodservice equipment and supplies industry can be when I went to a recent meeting. While attending the SFM’s workshop for vendors, I noticed that all talk centered around the procurement of comestibles. Supply chain management for the foodservice contract management firms revolves around their food buys. The purchasing by these largest of end-users pay scant attention, if any, to E&S specifications.
Although this is a mostly proper strategy for contract operators, it presents a dilemma for the foodservice equipment and supplies marketer. Today’s mandate is for us in foodservice sales to create demand. Simple fulfillment will not drive top-line sales growth of foodservice machinery and smallwares. Generating interest in the durable goods that our factories manufacture and distribute must necessarily be our current path to success.
It all starts with the food. How many dealer sales reps, manufacturers’ reps or factory sales managers truly know food? How in depth is our understanding of the ways it’s produced, shipped, packaged and prepared? Nonetheless, this information is integral to the processes that our foodservice equipment is expected to manage. Do we know the varieties of produce? Do we know the mother sauces? Do we know the portions, the various cuts of meat, the sizes of seafood, the temperatures that are required? Clearly, I could go on. Although many sales organizations employ culinarians on their sales staffs, the knowledge often resides only in their silo. As a consequence, the typical non-culinary industry professional is lacking in a working understanding of the very end-products that the whole enterprise is based upon.
It’s not only ignorance that is the culprit here. The cultural bias found among many E&S specialists results from his or her overexposure to all things mechanical. As a group, we tend to overemphasize the products that we supply, and to downplay the food that these products support.
There is hope, and it comes from the unlikeliest of sources: television. The recent popularity of foodservice industry based programming has elevated the artisans of our commercial kitchens to celebrity status. This, in turn, has spawned a reawakening of the culinary arts. As a foodservice professional, I and my peers must be in on this conversation. So, too, has social media played a role in drawing all of us into the world of food.
Whether we concentrate on preparation, storage, serving or scullery, we need to be aware of the fact that we are people who feed people.