IFMA Event Highlights Possible Labor, Supply Chain Solutions

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – The foodservice industry is facing no shortage of challenges these days. And, with those issues serving as a backdrop, more than 550 leaders converged on suburban Phoenix for this week’s IFMA World President’s Conference.

Issues addressed at the conference included DEI, supply chain, operator relations, and food waste.

Sysco executives Kevin Hourican and Adrienne Trimble addressed the diversity challenges that the world’s largest foodservice distributor is facing. Hourican, the company’s president and CEO, said: “We need to represent the customer we serve.”

When Hourican joined the company 2019, one of Sysco’s major cities was 70% diverse yet the company’s sales force there was 97% white. That has changed significantly in recent years but the effort to improve diversity still “has a long way to go,” the CEO noted.

Additionally, the executives noted that Sysco’s “Recipe for Growth” currently includes:

  1. Digital: Enriching the customer experience through personalized digital tools
  2. Offering customer-focused marketing and products that are quintessentially “local”
  3. Retention in the supply chain and serving customers with products they need when they need them
  4. Team-based selling, with protein and produce alongside dry goods
  5. Future horizons, cultivating new channels and opportunities, particularly in specialty and ethnic foods

An industry leader roundtable preceded the Sysco presentation. Phil Kafarakis, president of the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association (IFMA), Michelle Korsmo, president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association (NRA), and Mark Allen, president and CEO of the International Foodservice Distributors Association (IFDA), addressed industry challenges, including the ongoing labor shortage.

Korsmo touted NRA’s program to bring the formerly incarcerated and the disabled into the industry and provide meaningful employment. Allen, meanwhile, said that foodservice distribution is changing rapidly and that many operators are buying from three to five distributors, rather than relying on a single supplier. Kafarakis said that manufacturers are also expanding their supply chain to avoid shortages.

In his presentation entitled “Beyond the Three-Headed Monster,” Datassential Builder Jack Li described significant changes that have taken place. While the number of restaurants shrunk 4% during the pandemic, the more significant factor is the 7.5% reduction in hours that restaurants are open. About 60% of restaurants have reduced hours. Metropolitan New York City had the sharpest reduction of the 50-plus metropolitan areas in Datassential’s research.

Li said: “Fewer restaurants opened fewer hours are impacting the recovery of the industry.”

Meanwhile, restaurant menu inflation, at 7.2%, is significantly lagging 11.1% food inflation. Restaurant operators are taking the hit on margins, which currently stand at 13%. Li said that these should improve and that the industry needs to focus on “versatility, efficiency and creativity.”