The Thursday General Session Will Take a Closer Look at the New Ways Restaurants are Reaching Customers and How Dealers can Serve those Models While Contending with an Uncertain Equipment Availability

The focus on supply chain and foodservice operator challenges will continue on the second full day of programming for the 2021 FEDA Annual Conference.

The morning will kick off with a keynote address from Jeff Sinelli, founder, CEO and chief vibe officer of Sinelli Concepts International, the company behind restaurant concepts such as Which Wich? Superior Sandwiches, Genghis Grill, Paciugo Gelato & Café, Burguesa Brands and Supernova Coffee. Taken together, those brands represent more than 1,000 domestic and international locations. Sinelli will tap into his experience of creating new concepts during the keynote, which will focus on his operations leaderships, new initiatives at Which Wich? and his insight into how the foodservice equipment and supplies industry can provide more value and support to operators.

Attendees will have a chance to learn even more about Sinelli’s outlook for the industry during a Q&A segment following the keynote. FEDA Chairman Michael Keck, president of Concept Services, will moderate the keynote and share questions from the audience submitted through the conference platform.

While Sinelli will share the perspective of a global and fast-growing chain, the Thursday general session will give a voice to smaller restauranteurs. The Operator Spotlight session will focus on emerging foodservice models and will feature two Nashville restauranteurs: Claire Crowell, founder and CEO of Hatti Jane’s Creamery, and Kechelle Williams, founder and owner of Early Eats Food Truck. The moderator for the Operator Spotlight will be Jamie Arguello, president of Grady’s Foodservice Equipment, a dealer that specializes in designing and equipping food trucks.

The morning will end with a deep dive into the ongoing supply chain crisis by Dr. Andrea Sordi of the Global Supply Chain Institute, part of the University of Tennessee’s Haslam College of Business. Sordi will provide an overview of the ongoing supply chain challenges impacting industries across the globe, include foodservice equipment and supplies. Following his presentation, Sordi will moderate a special panel to recap the prior day’s supply chain discussion from the Partner Exchange Roundtables. That panel will include Gene Clark, CEO of Clark Associates, Kirby Mallon, president of Elmer Schultz Services and Tim Fitzgerald, CEO of Middleby Corp.

Quick Hits with Restaurateur Jeff Sinelli

There has been a lot of talk in recent months about how the labor shortage is impacting restaurants, but what is one challenge for operators that you feel is being overlooked? How has this affected your operations?
Jeff Sinelli: Chips. And being in the sandwich business, I’m not talking about potato chips. I’m talking about the technology that goes into electronic components that I find is delaying some of our restaurants right now. It’s my understanding that a lot of the equipment is built but is just waiting on a lot of electronic components that have been delayed.

Can you share a recent story about how an equipment and supplies distributor went above and beyond to solve a problem for one of your restaurants?
Having been in concept development for almost 30 years, I find equipment manufacturers and distributors to be some of the most gracious and generous providers to new concepts because of the potential a new concept can bring. You very rarely change your equipment out if you pick the right one out front. So, we make sure we pick the right ones. They make their whole team available for questions and answers. They are there to help and very hands-on. We wouldn’t be successful without this assist to build concepts from inception.

What knowledge or idea do you hope FEDA members will take away from your keynote presentation?
We are all in this together. We need each other. We need distributors and manufacturers and they need venues to run their equipment. And we all need to be in it for the long haul. We have to get through the rollercoaster of life. Sometimes you find out who your real partners are through extreme experiences.

Although the industry has seen a lot of disruption in the past year, it has also created many new opportunities. What new business models or concepts are you excited about and believe are here to stay?
I always believe in restaurants – in branded restaurants that execute. The real opportunity that I found through COVID is that we were a very strong company with our d ining room and our in-store experience. But when dining rooms were closed or at limited capacity, the out-of-dining (room) experience allowed us to develop and go forward at a very fast pace. The brand becomes the mothership to provide an out-of-dining experience through delivery and packaging solutions. Those things were really almost secondary before and have now shifted to be primary.