As a member of the Commercial Food Equipment Service Association for the last 20-plus years, I have valued the organization’s ability to anticipate trends in the foodservice industry. This ability has provided invaluable guidance and support to not only service companies but also manufacturers, foodservice equipment dealers, independent manufacturers’ representatives, consultants and operators.

Patrick DuffyPatrick Duffy, Duffy's AISIn the not-so-distant past, authorized service agents (ASAs) had a contentious relationship with foodservice equipment manufacturers. The issues stemmed primarily from policies that ASAs perceived as unfair. These policies included a demand for extremely low labor rates, mandatory stocking of thousands of parts (regardless of equipment sales) and exorbitant handling charges on parts which could not be returned for a year — if ever. There was little, if any, room for negotiation as parts sales were the main source of income for many of us.

The shift in our industry has been twofold: With the advent of the internet, most ASAs now focus more on service, and parts warehouses have seemingly brought balance back to the equation.

Our company, Duffy's AIS, is also part of the National Service Cooperative (NSC), where we have one factory customer who offers no handling fees, reduced freight, a deep discount for parts and a generous return policy. The factory will pay the service company if a warranty call turns into a nonwarranty issue and we cannot collect. This manufacturer will also guarantee initial travel and diagnostic charges. Furthermore, the factory will void the customer’s warranty until it receives reimbursement for that call. The manufacturer pays street rates (or above) for warranty service because the company knows you get what you pay for. The factory’s mandatory stocking lists are the bare minimum for their critical customers’ equipment. This company engages in NSC One Voice meetings and listens to the service world’s issues because its leadership recognizes that the service agent’s issues are the factory’s issues.

The competition remains tougher than before for all segments of today’s foodservice industry. Everyone needs to rethink their businesses and how they provide value on the customer’s terms in order to stand out from the competition.

As a result, some forward-thinking factories now do things no one would even dream of just a few years ago. It’s the ones who realize that you catch more flies with honey who will earn their place at the top of our dispatch boards nationwide. And more importantly, those factories will continue to earn the trust and support of the foodservice operators who buy their equipment and the supply chain that recommends or specifies these products.