As our company, Hansen Group, celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, it seemed like a good time to look back at how the foodservice industry has evolved and take a look at what the future might hold.
I started in the foodservice industry in 1985, working in the warehouse for an Atlanta dealership before eventually working my way into a sales role. One of the biggest differences between then and now is how high-speed and transparent the industry has become. I like it. Your abilities are what they are and you have to learn to adapt to customers that expect you to be very transparent while matching their sense of urgency.
In the old days, it was more of a good old boy industry. Business got done on a handshake. Those days are over. Now you have to have all of your i's dotted and t's crossed.
The increasing speed at which the industry moves falls in line with broader technological developments. For example, when I first started, everything was paper based and sales reps used pay phones to keep in touch with the office and their customers. The fax machine's arrival really sped things up.
Smartphones represent a real game changer. There was no more waiting to return to the office to see something and get back to someone. Everything was in the palm of your hand and communication became lightning fast. Your visibility of response time became so transparent to everyone you work with.
We were among the first rep groups in the country to arm our people with smartphones, then tablet computers. If you are smart with your use of technology and handle your business as you go today, there's no need to catch up at the end of the day.
If technology played a critical role in shaping our past, it will play an even greater role in the future of the foodservice industry. The new people entering the marketplace are used to being able to find the products they need on the internet. Price, delivery times and more are transparent on the internet. They want the product when they want it and the company that can meet that demand will get their business. It's not personal. It's business. And this is how they roll.
As a result, we see more technology-oriented distributors investing more not only in inventory but also real estate to ensure they can meet customers' expectations for speed by providing one-day delivery.
In the not-so-distant future, I can see companies like ours getting even more segmented as we strive to meet the unique needs of healthcare, school and even college foodservice. It also applies to areas such as tabletop and beverages.
If you look at a lot of the rep groups, dealers and even manufacturers across the country, there's lots of longevity in these organizations. Our company has committed to a youth movement. Youth brings in fresh ideas and knowledge. That's apparent in other parts of the industry and gets us all excited as we look to the future.