President, Hotel & Restaurant Supply
The next five years of the evolution of the foodservice equipment and supplies industry is going to be interesting to watch, and even more exciting to be a part of. There is no doubt customer expectations are higher and growing more rapidly each day and distributors are working to adapt to new technologies.
I hope we can look back five years from now and see that our industry worked together to make real advancements in how our channel provides an overall experience to the end user. Each of our companies will have plenty to accomplish on our own and we also will have to work together to remain relevant and valuable to the end user. Consolidation, digital disruption, and generational dynamics will continue to change our industry and all of us will need to make sure our business models remain relevant to our customers.
The 2019 FEDA Annual Conference provided a map for distributors to think about how to tackle those challenges and prepare for a stronger future. One of the moments I remember most was during the strategizing discussion on legislative advocacy. When constituents have had enough, our speaker commented, legislators move more quickly. That was a reminder that our actions do bring about change. FEDA is engaging more in this area and is also increasing its efforts in regards to education and training, technology use, data standards, and is involving and investing in our young industry leaders.
During the conference, I was encouraged by the passion and commitment I saw in our board members. I believe their leadership, combined with the FEDA staff and FEDA members, will move our industry forward. As Steve Maahs, president of Alto-Shaam, succinctly said during the conference, “Nothing is the way it used to be.”
The conference proved that members are already preparing for the changes ahead. “The Future of Our Industry” strategizing discussion, which featured Keri Llewellyn, Eric Boelter, Gene Clark, and Steve Maahs, provided relevant thoughts on the direction of the foodservice equipment market and laid a great foundation for the discussions and sessions that followed.
Two reoccurring themes I took away from the conference were the need to add value to the customer experience and to reduce the friction at every point in the process. FEDA dealers and distributors won’t be able to accomplish those things on their own. They will need to work closely with manufacturers, manufacturer’s reps, service agents, and the customers themselves to create that value. There is no doubt our industry will need to collaborate on a deeper level to help provide the overall experience that the end user expects.