Foodservice Opinions

Opinion pieces on the foodservice equipment and supplies industry from leaders and laymen from all aspects of the business, including dealers, distributors, design consultants and multi-unit operators.

Redefining Smart Kitchens

The foodservice industry’s view of the smart kitchen is similar to society’s view of mermaids and unicorns: We all know what they look like but nobody expects to actually encounter one any time soon. It might be time, however, to adjust your definition of what actually constitutes a smart kitchen.

Signs of Things to Come?

With the calendar finally displaying 2010 dates, I look forward to shaking off the doldrums from the previous year and am excited about what 2010 holds for the foodservice industry. Still, the trials and tribulations of 2009 were not without their benefits. Indeed, the challenging business and social environment taught us all some valuable lessons and reminded us of a few fundamental foodservice truths that will never change. With that in mind, here are my key observations from last year.

It's All About the Menu and It Always Will Be

The menu is the heart and soul of any foodservice operation and 2009 only confirmed that. Though consumers spent more time at home, they still ate out, meaning that despite the economy, there still was significant demand for food prepared away from home. What did change was how consumers defined value, illustrated by how they traded down or patronized restaurants with creative menu packaging and pricing. At the end of the day, the promise of something special at the center of the plate is what continues to prompt consumers to get off the couch and part with what little discretionary income they have. And the operators that are able to leverage their equipment and supplies investment to help create that something special in the most effective and efficient manner possible are the ones that will continue to prosper.

The Polarization of the Dealer Community

Until now, seismic changes in the dealer community have been relegated to quiet, backroom conversations. Make no mistake, though, the way dealers align themselves and go about procuring equipment and supplies is undergoing a major shift. The formation of a new dealer buying group featuring six of the bigger names in equipment and supplies distribution set off a domino effect in the industry. The fallout from the formation of the first group led to the creation of a second buying organization. As a result, one dealer buying group is but a mere shell of its former self. And another group will almost certainly dissolve, which is why its remaining dealers reportedly are searching for a new organizational umbrella.

While many speculate as to what's driving these changes, one thing is for certain: The dealer community is polarizing. The emerging dealer landscape seems to align the really big dealers in two buying groups, leaving the smaller ones to form their own alliances. It's sort of like the television show "Survivor," with factions forming among competitors--except in this case the players are pooling their purchasing power to get the best deals on stainless steel and china. I expect there will be considerable movement within dealer groups in the months ahead, distracting them from the slow pace of the economic recovery.

H1N1 and Food-Safety Fundamentals

While it's hard to imagine something good coming from something as nasty as the H1N1 pandemic, that's actually the case for the foodservice industry. Foodservice professionals were reminded that there's no substitute for fundamentals of food-safety, notably proper hand washing and cleaning and sanitizing of all surfaces. As Handwashing for Life's Jim Mann points out on page seven, lessons learned from this pandemic have set a precedent for future foodservice professionals. "In fact, the spread of the virus has motivated industry professionals to develop better food safety policies, facility designs, and training programs," Mann says.
The past year was far from dull, but something tells me its events only set the table for an even more exciting 2010. Here's wishing you and your business a prosperous New Year!

Expecting the Unexpected

Few people would argue that the current economic climate has been examined ad nausea. The mainstream media has spilled countless gallons of ink and talked until they are nearly blue in the face, trying to assess the blame for our economy’s most recent recession. And politicians on both sides of the aisle continue to prey upon consumers’ fears to drive home their ideological agendas.

Efficiency is a Direction and not a Destination

Efficiency is one of the great buzz words being tossed around in the foodservice industry today. Just about every foodservice company is struggling to determine what it means for their business to be more efficient in light of the challenging business environment.

It’s Not Over Until It’s Over

Last month Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernake made global headlines when he told the Brookings Institute that the recession is “very likely over.” If the recession is, in fact, over, what does that mean for the foodservice industry?

It's Not Over Until It's Over

Last month Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke made global headlines when he told The Brookings Institution that the recession is "very likely over." If the recession is, in fact, over, what does that mean for the foodservice industry?

In the short term, this ray of economic hope probably does not mean much to the foodservice industry. Foodservice operators' equipment and supplies budgets are expected to decrease by 2.8 percent, on average, in 2010 according to FE&S' annual Forecast Study. In contrast, 39 percent of the operators surveyed anticipate an increase in their food and beverage expenditures, while 45 percent anticipate this budget item will remain flat. Overall, we project that foodservice equipment and supplies sales for 2010 will remain flat when compared to this year.

Bottom’s Up?

One of the (many) unfortunate aspects of downward business spirals is that they never call ahead to let anyone know they are coming.  Once the tumultuous periods come to an end, nobody announces that the business environment has stabilized. Such is the situation for today’s foodservice industry.

Feeling the Perfection

“What is your common purpose?” That was a question posed by the Disney Institute’s Scott Milligan during a presentation at Technomic’s 2009 Trends and Directions Conference. While Milligan asked this of the record number of foodservice operators and other industry professionals in attendance, it is really a question that any member of the industry needs to be able to answer to help ensure long-term success.