E&S Extra

Editorial Director Joe Carbonara provides insights and commentary on the state of the foodservice equipment and supplies marketplace.


Fundamentally Flexible

Like certain relatives at the end of a holiday party, you know the ones, there’s a trio of foundation-shaking business challenges the foodservice industry faces that don’t show any signs of leaving anytime soon. It does not matter what role a company plays in the foodservice industry; everyone faces the same three challenges as the industry enters 2022: cost, supply chain and labor.

Joe Carbonara editor hsWhile these challenges come in various shapes and sizes, there’s no denying their staying power. And during times like this, it’s easy for business leaders to fall down a rabbit hole of thought that’s anything but productive. Focusing on what a business does not have, say enough labor, component parts or even specific ingredients, can cloud one’s vision. Instead of focusing on what you can’t do, focus on what you can do.

Oftentimes, that includes leaning back on your fundamentals, those cornerstone items that provided the foundation for your company’s success for years. True, oftentimes relying on one’s fundamentals lacks the sex appeal of uncovering the next big innovation, but, more often than not, doing so will provide an organization with the stability and direction necessary to navigate turbulent times.

Take, for example, Ace Mart Restaurant Supply. In a candid and insightful interview, Jonathan Gustafson, the dealer’s new president, described how Ace Mart’s longstanding commitment to developing and maintaining its infrastructure, including the company’s distribution centers and inventory, helped pave the way for growth during better times and allowed the San Antonio-based company to navigate the challenges from the past year. Indeed, sometimes it’s not what you don’t have but what you do have that can make all the
difference during times of crisis.

Flexibility has never been more valuable than it is at this moment. Foodservice designers will need to rely on all their experience and expertise to help operators better deal with the labor challenges of today and those that may be lurking on the horizon. Clevenger Associates’ Eric Norman points out that designers must continue to find ways that allow one foodservice professional to manage multiple tasks.

In some instances, combining assets can help drive a company’s growth. Take, for example, FAT Brands. In 2021 the multiconcept operator went on a shopping spree and acquired four different restaurant companies. While those deals made headlines, it’s an ongoing effort that predates the pandemic that caught my eye. For years now, FAT Brands has been opening co-branded units that feature sibling concepts Fatburger and Buffalo’s Cafe. Now, this is not the first time a company has tried co-branding, but the results are worth noting. FAT Brands CEO Andy Wiederhorn notes that the company has seen a 20% increase in unit sales volumes with co-branding. As a result, the company will continue to leverage this fundamental aspect of its business as it integrates its acquisitions.

Indeed, despite the many challenges the industry faces at the moment, there remains an appetite for real growth. And by focusing on what they already have and what they can do, individual companies can chart a path back toward growth and greater prosperity.