An Opportunity to Look for Opportunities

Michael Keck
Chairman, FEDA
President, Concept Services

The 2021 FEDA Annual Conference has been on my calendar since we last met virtually in September 2020. After feeling like I’ve been cheated out of seeing my colleagues and industry partners over the past year, I could not be more eager to get back to seeing everyone in person. Phone calls and Zoom meetings are no substitute for getting in that physical space and sharing thoughts in real-time with the people I’ve been in the industry with for decades and my friends.

The intimate size of the FEDA Annual Conference has traditionally lent itself to deep dialogues about the challenges facing our industry. The time between the general sessions, after the educational programs and during the social events is an opportunity to look for opportunity by talking to each other and sharing our problems and successes. By doing so, we build relationship and find ways to overcome our common issues together.

Though I look forward to the event, I do wish we were all getting together under a different set of circumstances as it relates to the supply chain – since I know that topic will dominate the conversation at the FEDA Annual Conference. I prefer to talk about solutions, but with many of the factors causing supply chain disruption out of our hands, I believe we’re going to be talking about the problem for a while. Still, the chance to drill down on our challenges over a cocktail will be good for us all. It will allow us to connect with our peers and channel partners to come up with a Plan B or C in some cases. Those conversations will help us distributors understand how manufacturers can continue supporting a project when we must move away from our primary spec – and how we can sell that change to our customers.

The timing for this get-together could not be better considering the abundance of questions we are asking ourselves every day. Our customers are rapidly revising their business models to accommodate changing guest expectations and to reach new customers. I’m excited to hear directly from operators, such as O’Charley’s CEO Craig Barber, about how we can better bolster their futures and to see how those presentations inspire new ideas in my colleagues across the country.