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Key Lessons on Energy Efficiency and Supply Chain Management from the NRA Show

With the calendar rolling over to June that can only mean two things: my Cubs are already jockeying for a prime position in next season's baseball draft and that the NRA Show has come and gone. So instead of dwelling on the disappointing (the Cubs season to date) I will focus on the positive, which in this case means some key lessons learned from the NRA Show here in Chicago.

Over the course of the four-day shindig, I had the opportunity to chat with numerous dealers, consultants, operators and manufacturers. In addition, it was an honor to moderate a pair of panel discussions regarding supply chain management and energy efficiency. Each presentation represented a wonderfully dynamic conversation among a trio of seasoned foodservice professionals. With that in mind, I would like to share a few key points made in each presentation.

The Truth and Consequences about Energy Star and LEED

  • With existing foodservice operations, start small and look to build on your energy efficiency efforts over time.
  • Start educating yourself on energy-efficient foodservice equipment before it is time to replace an existing item. That way, when a piece of equipment reaches the end of its service life, you are ready to make an informed purchase.
  • Foodservice operators and their supply chain partners looking to implement energy-efficient solutions can work with their utility providers to uncover helpful information about rebates, energy usage and more.
  • Light bulbs do more than provide ambiance for a foodservice operation: they represent an opportunity to lower electricity costs while providing a good experience for customers and crew alike.
  • The concept of trying to enhance energy efficiency may seem broad or intimidating but don't be afraid to try and learn from your successes and failures. When starting out, it is important to be realistic when it comes to anticipating how much the foodservice operation will realize in terms of utility savings.

Thanks to Bridgeman Foods' Lisa Kennedy, Yum! Brands David Harpring and Foodservice Technology Center's Richard Young for sharing their expertise on this panel discussion.

Improving Supply Chain Performance

This session focused on ways individual members of the supply chain — be they dealers, consultants, manufacturers, reps or service agents — can work together to help add value to their relationships with foodservice operators. Some key points made during this session included:

  • Supply chain partners should help foodservice operators drive a specific experience for consumers. And no matter your role in the supply chain, it is important to fully understand the experience the operator strives to create.
  • Operators want their supply chain partners to present solutions to existing business challenges and not just drop by to introduce a new product. And the supply chain partners should be prepared to offer the right solution, even if it is not right for the supplier. In other words, if your company does not have the right solution but you know where it resides, don't hesitate to send the customer in that direction.
  • Don't just make a sale and move on to the next one. Outcomes are very important to foodservice operators, so be sure to check back to see if the solution delivered the expected return and explore ways to improve the relationship moving forward.
  • Foodservice operators focus on opening new locations or running existing ones. In these roles, they need their supply chain partners to help them manage the unknown, meaning any unanticipated circumstances that arise during normal operations or when opening a new location.
  • Email etiquette is very important in maintaining good supply chain relationships. And email can be a very good way to remain top of mind with busy operators, because it gives the customer the chance to review information on their terms and set follow up appointments for the relevant items.
  • Relationships are a two-way street. So if a supplier does not feel they are getting the information they need to provide value to the operator, then they need to ask for it.
  • Most of all, good supply chain relationships are not a destination but a direction. That means you will always need to invest time and care into maintaining these relationships to ensure they add value.

My thanks to Indiana University Health's Lorna Kirsch, Wow Café and Wingery's Chris Pierson and Profitality's Juan Martinez in helping pull this session together.

Of course, shows like the NRA present plenty of opportunity for social interaction. The Sunday night networking event hosted by FCSI's Midwest Chapter was a wonderful success in that regard. It was great to touch base with so many consultants, manufacturers and reps.

And if social networking is your thing, please feel free to like FE&S on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and connect to us on LinkedIn.
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