President, Hotel & Restaurant Supply
The abundance of readily available information can often seem like a curse for equipment sellers. When anyone can look up an answer to their problem or concern on Google, the tendency is to feel like you don’t have to be educated because the customer educates themselves. But I think the opposite is true. We should be more educated and trained to help customers sift through all this information.
Our guidance and expertise is why operators come to foodservice equipment distributors. Without that depth of knowledge, the customer relationship becomes purely transactional, and if we have nothing else to add to the equation, then what value do we have over a computer or search engine?
Most people in our industry would probably say we could improve our education and training efforts. I know I want to do more at Hotel & Restaurant Supply. There are many reasons why it falls to the wayside. Education and training are easy goals to put on the backburner when a deadline is fast approaching or when an important client calls with an emergency order that must be filled right away. The priority is always the problem in front of you—and staff development takes manpower away from finding those solutions.
A further hindrance to training is the disparate solutions available. Manufacturers have an abundance of training resources but they are all available in different places. If I want to know everything about fryers and what is available on the market, I have to click through numerous manufacturer websites. It’s inefficient and time consuming. It is another example of a larger issue—or maybe I should say opportunity—of data and content availability in our industry. One way FEDA has helped in this regard is by partnering with AutoQuotes on the order status initiative, which collects valuable order status information from hundreds of manufacturers into a single source. In the coming year, the association is looking to go even further with the resources it makes available to members.
At the same time, the association continues to offer scholarships to the University of Innovative Distribution (UID), an Indiana-based educational program focused on the specific needs of the wholesale-distribution industry. My own employees often return from the UID feeling energized by what they learned and encouraged that Hotel & Restaurant Supply has invested in their future.
The evolution of the FEDA Annual Conference is another way
FEDA is improving its educational efforts. This year’s mix of strategizing discussions, breakout sessions, and peer discussions will hit on the biggest challenges facing the industry and are designed to encourage attendees to consider a wider, long-term view of their business—no matter where they are at in their career.