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Solution Makers

During the past 40 years, I have witnessed many changes in the foodservice industry. When I started my career, change occurred slowly. Today we all know that this is not the norm. Changes now occur all the time with technology, ways of pursuing market opportunities with food products and, of course, relationships between DSRs and food brokerage sales operations.

Today, in order to serve the foodservice community, both sales forces have had to raise their standards of doing business to meet the needs of the foodservice operator. Operators look to both the distributor and broker sales forces for ideas, service, quality and commitment to help them build their businesses and serve their customers.

In fact, all three groups - broker, distributor and operator - have been forced to be better in their respective fields. Simply put, if the distributor does not assist his operators with timely deliveries, variety of products and high service levels, operators will not be able to provide their customers with a good product and will not succeed in their businesses.

Conversely, the foodservice broker must be able to keep up with these changes and be able to assist, develop and identify operations for the foodservice distributor. Because of the speed, economics and service levels required by the operator, a spirit of cooperation and working in harmony exists that did not as recently as 15 to 20 years ago.

Our industry is what I like to refer to as a working industry. Nothing comes easily but we will all succeed only through hard work and dedication. So, you might ask, what are some of the things occurring in this spirit of cooperation and teamwork among the DSR, broker and operator? Let's discuss a few of them.

  • First, today there appears to be a new era of trust between the DSR and broker reps. It is necessary and imperative that both parties work hand in hand to satisfy their customers' needs and this, in turn, has led to business increases for both the distributorship and brokerage. Adversarial relationships are not in vogue and do nothing for either party's existence.

  • Second, more than ever all parties today are responsible for performance. It is imperative that manufacturers, brokers and distributors disseminate product knowledge and education at all levels so that operators can best utilize the services and products being made available to them. Providing services such as menu ideas from the broker for operator partners is a necessary ingredient in a recipe for success. Likewise, DSRs are responsible for proper order entry, timely deliveries and top-notch performance in their sales duties.

  • Third, all of us have to be better-informed sales people who accept the responsibility for results. We should also be better managers of our time. This is definitely the state of affairs between DSRs and foodservice brokers. We simply need to continue to be better planners and approach our customers together with presentations of products that make sense for them in order to close the sale and have a productive outcome for the operator, broker and distribution teams. It's all about teamwork!

  • Fourth, we all want to work in harmony in being solution makers and striving for excellence in our everyday performance. We, as a company, have noticed that during the past few years that we have worked better with our DSR partners in catering to the solutions needed at the operator level. Staffing specialized culinary personnel by both the distributor and broker is necessary and allows both partners to talk to operators with solutions to their problems.

  • Finally, we must remember that all parties should have realistic expectations of each other. We must be partners who use all the available tools placed before us such as strong marketing programs, good informational feedback and the use of advanced technology. Together, we must all remain partners, striving for excellence at each of our respective levels. The sum of all of our discussions today is that if we continue working together as three interconnected partners - broker, distributor and operator - we truly will become solution makers.

    J. Robert Johnson is president of Yankee Marketers, Middleton, MA, and a member of the ID Access Editorial Advisory Board.

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