Post-Hurricane Foodservice Heroics

"We accomplished a lot as a team." – Glenn Lutton
In Houston, Greg Lanier, Avendra director, field support and customer relations, assumed that business along the Gulf Coast would be soon back to normal. Then the levees broke, the floods came, and the full impact of the disastrous storm became evident.

Two days later, at 11 a.m. Lanier got a call from Don Hecht, Avendra's senior director, food master distribution and regional contracting, announcing that Houston had been designated Avendra's Mission Control.

"Customer feedback was that emergency supplies had to be delivered ASAP," said Lanier. The need was urgent: people were stranded in hotels along the coast, and regular deliveries from the east had been made impossible by road damage.

"My first call was to our master distributor Glazier Foods," recalled Lanier. "They were immediately on board, even though the details were sketchy, we knew it could be dangerous, and we were asking them to deliver to places they don't normally go."

By 5 p.m. that same day, the first loaded trailer was ready to leave Glazier's distribution center. Over the next four weeks, the Avendra/Glazier team repeated this process dozens of times, drawing on the extraordinary efforts of a number of people.

"We've seen a lot of dedicated distributors perform under tough circumstances, especially this year," commented Don Hecht. "But Glazier did some exceptional things – like run double shifts for weeks, transport rooms supplies, and source emergency-related products for accounts – that went beyond a business partnership."

Customer Service - Community Service
It was Glenn Lutton, director of contract compliance for locally-based Glazier Foods Co., No. 18 on the 2006 ID Top 50 and a member of UniPro and NESA, who received Lanier's initial call. Glenn did not hesitate, despite the fact that there were so many challenges. "It was obvious that people needed help and we were willing to do whatever it took."

As Avendra's 11th largest distribution center in a field of 58, Glazier Foods stocks approximately 12,000 SKUs, including canned and frozen foods, janitorial supplies, small wares and paper goods in a new 250,000-sq.-ft. warehouse.

Because of the unusual circumstances, loads would include out-of-the-ordinary items for a foodservice distributor. In the course of the next few weeks, Glazier transported rolls of chain and padlocks, blankets, flashlights and batteries, toothbrushes, extension cords, pillows and rubber boots, in addition to ready-to-eat snacks, water, canned food and cleaning supplies.

The Avendra team worked with suppliers such as The Home Depot Supply, Houston's Finest Produce and Martin Preferred Foods, which pulled product from all over the country to deliver to Glazier. Once there, goods were loaded either onto one of Glazier's 120 trucks or one of many that they leased or borrowed to carry out the operation.

However, when necessary, the distributorship's employees, including Jim Nordhaus, vice president of purchasing, actually went shopping for hard-to-find items. In some cases, Glazier picked up items from an out-of-town supplier before heading to Louisiana.

All this went on while normal Glazier served its regular customers. Standard deliveries are loaded between 5 p.m. and 5 a.m., with inbound goods stocked during the day. During this time day-shift employees, in addition to receiving shipments, also loaded trucks headed for Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Glazier drivers would leave Houston around 6 p.m., make their deliveries, and sleep in shifts to be back at work the next morning.

"The logistics were a little complicated," summarized Lutton.

Safety & Security
After receiving Avendra's call, Lutton's first task was finding drivers to make the run into unknown territory. Volunteers included several members of the management team, including Tom Glazier, the 65-year-old owner of the family-held company.

"People knew we needed extra resources, and they just went," commented Glenn.

On the first trip, it became clear that there was no getting into New Orleans proper. The first deliveries were made to Baton Rouge. Over the next few days, drivers were directed to the nearby Metairie Marriott Courtyard, which became known as "Camp Marriott." With no reliable electricity, deliveries included items like chafing dishes and instant coffee in addition to ready-to-eat food and water.

Glazier also began making runs to the Baton Rouge Marriott, which acted as a staging area for other regional outposts. The Baton Rouge post-Katrina population had almost doubled, and "The streets were full of cars," remembered Lewis Long, a Glazier supervisor turned volunteer driver. "A couple of times I didn't think I could even make the turns."

As the days went on, security became a critical issue, with reports of looting and hijacking along Glazier's route. The Avendra team was able to arrange for a FEMA clearance certificate, and military escorts and armed guards were considered. Glazier began to double up on drivers, using only unmarked trucks.

Deliveries continued, and Glazier made one of the first post-Katrina deliveries into New Orleans. On one occasion, the drivers were stopped at a roadblock en route. They called Avendra, and Lanier was able to reach a lieutenant in the National Guard. A couple of calls later, Lanier recounted, "We were talking to a major in the National Guard. His words were, 'Send them on, and if necessary I'll drive their truck into the city.'"

A month after Hurricane Katrina made landfall, Hurricane Rita hit the Gulf Coast, compounding the damage and the complexity of recovery for the entire area. Glazier Foods, while doing its part for Beaumont/Orange customers, continued to make overnight runs into Louisiana for weeks after the storm.

"It was a little tiring, but we made it through," said Will Warren, Glazier transportation supervisor and volunteer driver.

Will recalled passing hundreds of buses evacuating New Orleans and seeing the passengers of one broken bus walking along the road in the searing heat.

"I just felt so sorry for those people," he recalled.

Acknowledging Accomplishments
In January, Avendra acknowledged Glazier's assistance with a thank-you luncheon event for Glazier employees at their facility. Speeches were made to hearty applause, but Lutton remained humble about his company's performance.

His upshot: "We accomplished a lot as a team."

The Avendra group, however, made it clear that they appreciated Glazier's quiet heroics.

Summarized Avendra's Don Hecht, "Glazier has been Avendra' #1 performing distributor for the past two years, and it's not hard to see why. In this case they literally helped make the impossible possible. Thank you, Glazier, for going the extra mile."


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