Foodservice Equipment Reports

Dealers Past And Future

“The more things change, the more they remain the same” is an old saw that’s often true. But some things do change, and it’s critical to know what they are.

Which became an interesting topic in June at PRIDE Marketing’s summer forum at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare near Chicago.

The meeting, dubbed PING/PIKE (for PRIDE Informing Next Generation and PRIDE Informing Key Employees), was three days of presentations and interaction, and I was the kick-off speaker. With the average age in the room being somewhere in the early 30s, I thought a bit of history of foodservice E&S distribution, and some guesses on where it might be going, would be a good starting point.

So I pulled out my copy of I.S. “Sam” Anoff’s Food Service Equipment Industry: Its Beginning, Its Growth, Its People. This very useful history was published in 1972. Anoff was a very prominent person in this industry for almost 70 years. He knew things, and he shared them in this book.

Did you know, for example, that the Food Service Equipment Industry association (now FEDA) was founded through an initiative of President Roosevelt’s anti-Great Depression National Industrial Recovery Act in 1933?  Or that in the ’30s FSEI created an “honor roll” of favored manufacturers and set restrictive member rules that the Federal Trade Commission later found illegally restrained competition? FSEI entered into a consent decree in ’41, killed the honor roll and loosened member rules.

So my point for the group at the meeting was issues of “unfair” competition from what we now call “garage” dealers (they called them “curbstone” dealers) and the manufacturers that sell them have been around a long time.

But I also showed the audience how there has been real change in this market. Nearly all of it has been the result of a single trend: the ever increasing dominance of multiunit operators, with their national and international needs and unique capital goods requirements. This trend has been the key driver of change since the early ’50s and continues to be.

I closed by telling the group that I believe their future is bright, though always dynamic and challenging. I’ve said before that the Great Foodservice Recession has accelerated changes that were happening already. As the U.S. foodservice market matures, many multiunit operators are finding it more cost effective and efficient to outsource their E&S needs to the distribution community. And to use another old saw, “Distribution always finds its most efficient means.”

If you’d like a copy of the presentation—it’s in PowerPoint—send me an e-mail.


Robin Ashton

Robin Ashton


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