E&S Extra

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

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Good Fellas

In many respects, the foodservice industry is a lot like Martin Scorsese’s hit movie “Goodfellas,” given how relationship-based it truly is. As Ray Liotta’s character Henry Hill said, “You know, we always called each other good fellas. Like you’d say to, uh, somebody, ‘You’re gonna like this guy. He’s all right. He’s a good fella. He’s one of us.’ You understand? We were good fellas.”

Joe Carbonara editor hsIndeed, it seems like everyone in this industry is connected. Either you worked for someone or you work with someone or you worked on a project together. It’s a big, small industry, where all of the players are intertwined, and that can make for some raucous storytelling in the bar during the conferences. It also means that, as the individual businesses that comprise the foodservice industry continue to navigate the biggest public health crisis in a century, they face many of the same problems.

Take labor, for example. Not one company in the industry has enough of it, and what a company does have is more expensive to retain than ever before. It’s gotten so bad that when Scott Hall of Innovative Foodservice Group, the March 2022 DSR of the Month visits with a customer the first thing the client asks is not “What new products do you have?” but rather “Do you know anyone looking for a job?”

Costs, too, continue to be a major issue for all players. From ingredients to equipment and supply items to replacement parts, things just cost more at the moment for a variety of reasons. And then there are supply chain issues. Everything takes longer to arrive, and the challenges remain difficult to predict. 

Offsetting these challenges starts with communication. “You have to share the facts of life and do so in a manner that’s quick, clear and honest,” said Michael Keck, president of Concept Services and the Foodservice Equipment Distributors Association, during a panel discussion at the biennial conference Manufacturers’ Agents Association for the Foodservice Industry in January. 

Regardless of your role in the industry, it’s impossible to fix problems you don’t know exist. So, whether it’s a product showing up late or whatever the challenge du jour may be, it’s information that does not get any better with age. But don’t come to the table armed with only bad news. Bring a few potential solutions with you. “Everyone’s open to entertaining new options these days,” Keck added.

And get creative within your own networks. That’s what a bunch of service agents who are members of the Commercial Food Equipment Service Agents Association did (page 18). Realizing they all face similar challenges in sourcing replacement parts, they came together to share parts inventory to help one another get operators up and running a little faster.

The past two years have challenged the foodservice industry in ways that were previously unimaginable. Business leaders’ survival instincts kicked in as they tried to save their companies and protect their employees. They did what they had to do. But unlike “Goodfellas,” this tale does not have to end with someone eating egg noodles and ketchup instead of spaghetti with marinara, as Henry Hill did after relocating. The industry can have a happier ending by continuing to work together to leverage the community’s collective creativity and strengths.