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Collaboration and Actionable Data are Key for Foodservice Success


SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Finding actionable data in the foodservice space requires true collaboration among stakeholders.

That was one of the major points Tom Hannon, president of Sky Co-op, shared with The Food Institute at the IFMA Presidents Conference.

Supply Issues Remain in the Post-Pandemic Era

Although fill rates were normalizing, commodity price fluctuations and low product inventories continued to plague the foodservice industry, according to Hannon.

“Coming out of the pandemic we were still having problems getting specific items, and certain suppliers you possibly have used in the past were no longer making your products. So what you had to do was go to another supplier to see if you could procure that proprietary item, just to continue to have that item for the customer,” he said.

Hannon shared that Sky Co-op was collecting more data than ever and that weekly reports helped him to keep an eye on product level inventories to try to get ahead of any issues connected to the supply chain.

“I’m not finding out about something being out of stock at the last minute; I’m trying to be proactive and know that there may be a problem coming soon. And at the same time, the sooner that I can react to what the problem is, the more time I have to actually get a solution to that problem.”

Actionable Data is Crucial

Hannon said sometimes it felt like there was even too much data, which could lead to some decision paralysis. This theme was evident in other presentations at the IFMA Presidents Conference, as well.

“Anything that you want to see, I can produce, but at the same time, I don’t need to see all of that information at the same time,” he said.

That said, he noted having the right data was paramount for making key decisions in the business, and that every business had to prioritize the data that was actionable for their initiatives.

Pivoting from Competition to Collaboration

Data was one of the areas where the industry was better collaborating, and Hannon noted IFMA was working to better provide operators with some of that data.

“You have the larger chains, the mid-side chains, and the small chains, but there’s variation in the amount of money that a particular chain can afford to spend on data. But if I can get the information and provide the information, that’s key. And I think you’re basically coming out of the pandemic with the environment of collaboration amongst everybody.”

As part of the IFMA Restaurant Foodservice Leadership Council, Hannon expected the entire industry to benefit as more data was shared among stakeholders.

Finding Solutions Together in Person

Hannon pointed to events like IFMA Presidents Conference as an opportunity for all stakeholders to get together and find solutions to common issues affecting the entire industry.

“I’ve been in this industry for 40 years, and I’ve known a lot of these individuals for a long time. I’ll talk to manufacturers and operators, and if you’ve ever had to deal with a particular issue, there’s a good chance another company has had to deal with the problem somewhere else, so that’s where the collaboration comes in,” he shared.