Foodservice equipment and supplies represent the cornerstone of the foodservice industry's continued growth and success. Simply put, they are the solutions that consultants and dealers provide their operator customers. And for foodservice operators, equipment and supplies represent the tools of their trade — those very items that allow them to continue to satisfy their customers' appetites for food prepared away from home. To help satisfy your hunger for product information, we present the FE&S 2011 E&S Directory.

When reviewing our media kit, people often ask us why FE&S continues to print a directory. The conventional wisdom of the day would seem to indicate that the Internet and the countless technological tools that it has inspired would have diminished the value of a physical directory. But the plain truth of the matter is that we continue to provide a comprehensive directory because you — our subscribing dealers, operators and consultants — have told us that this product is important to you and that you refer to it regularly. For that reason we continue to strive to provide you with the most comprehensive resource possible.

The following pages are packed with useful information, including an alphabetical product index, a categorical product index, a list of product sources and, of course, a listing of manufacturer contact information. This structure provides you with a fast and efficient way to find resources that meet the specific needs of your company or your customers.

Of course, the solutions to most foodservice challenges tend not to be of the plug-and-play variety. Rather, the challenges most foodservice companies face are often complex and require research and collaboration among trading partners to develop meaningful and sustainable solutions. And it seems to me that this trend will remain pervasive for quite some time.

For example, healthy dining is a topic that remains top of mind — both within the foodservice industry and among the consumers it serves. And many noncommercial feeders, such as healthcare operators and school foodservice providers, will look to claim their place on the forefront of the healthy dining movement. In doing so they will likely change their menus and potentially end partnerships they have with branded concepts in order to establish greater control of the products they provide their customers. A natural by-product of these steps could be a greater emphasis on scratch cooking, executed either on-site or centrally and delivered to satellite locations.

Transitioning an existing operation to this type of setup can be challenging even for the most seasoned foodservice professional, and the wise ones know this. This opens the door for individual members of the supply chain to really bring some value to the table. Facilitating a collaborative process that incorporates the various disciplines and expertise of other foodservice professionals — including many from outside your own organization — can help create a dynamic that spurs innovation.

Of course, for suppliers to do this, they will have to shelve their obsession with topline revenues and get closer to their customers. Earlier this fall, I had the opportunity to attend the operator roundtables that took place during the MAFSI Annual Conference in San Antonio. One of my major takeaways from this experience was the fact that foodservice operators really want their supply chain partners to spend time in their facilities to help them develop collaborative and sustainable solutions to their challenges.

I hope you will use this directory as a tool to initiate a collaborative process to address your company's business issues or those of your clients.