This rant started as a running joke between foodservice buyers and sales colleagues: “we’ll never lead a normal life, and our friends outside the industry don’t understand our level of commitment for just average wages.” But even during my “golden age of foodservice” procurement , when we worked hard, we defended the utmost importance of God, family, and country even harder.
How are we raising up the next generation of foodservice professionals? Are we instilling in them those old-fashioned values alongside the hard-working, go-getting business attitude? Generation “Y” foodservice buyers/sellers, the 30-somethings, have kept alive some of the flame of the Baby Boomers, unlike the “YouTube”, “Z” generation. It seems this new generation has some narcissistic traits that preoccupy them with issues that usually don’t translate to traditional values.
Where the Golden Agers and Generation Y-ers sought out mentors to teach them the ropes, the post-college “Z”ers are catching “zzz”s, according to a comprehensive study by Professor Jean Twenge of San Diego State University. The new thinking seems to be, “I think I am a special person” and “I can live my life any way I want to.” For a glimpse of your future foodservice PA's and MA's. take a look at the “Z” personalities on display from the “American Idol” rejects: “you are so wrong”, “everyone says that I can sing!” According to the professor, these kids exhibit game playing dishonesty, have over-controlling behaviors, lack empathy, react aggressively to criticism, and favor self-promotion over self-help.
I remember the times of my "second Greatest Generation" career; when someone was out sick for more than just a few days, the “team” would cover their job responsibilities without being asked, and for the most part the person was not left on their own when they returned. The average food salesmen could spend more time with their restaurant customers than their computers, and the company brass were actually in touch with the sales force.
Today’s regional sales managers are being asked to travel more route miles than Magellan, just to spend less time with more customers spread out over a greater geography. The purchasing staff by comparison, does not have time to see new vendors, and because of the heavy workload too many contracts are rolled-over. Most buyers do not have time to complete a spend analysis, price-compliance audit or manage the promotional calendar with marketing. The weekends for both buyers and sellers are no longer for relaxing they’ve become a one-day pause between work weeks.
This is not to say that the old days were perfect days. Even during the good-times, when everyone knew your name, and expense accounts purchased lavish two drink lunches, we knew about the hidden problems in American business. But we’ve worked hard to fix that.
Now, as the summer afternoons heat up here in Georgia, even as SEC football is one week away, it’s rewarding to spend time by the pier seeking out young professionals to discuss the world as I see it. I worry about our foodservice industry after this next election and the future buyers and sellers, and ask what I can do to improve things for the next generation.
To A Better Future!
Fred Favole is Founder & President of Strategic Purchasing Services (SPS) , America's most experienced foodservice purchasing firm specializing in department outsourcing, cost-reduction and product development for emerging chains.