Foodservice Equipment Reports

Working The Channels

I’ve spent some quality time during the past month with other parts of the channel. In early October, I hung out with nearly 30 consultants at the Consultants Rock Tour in Seattle, hosted by Cres Cor, Franke Foodservice, Lakeside Manufacturing, Hatco and Wood Stone. They had me out there to moderate a Q&A session that went on for almost two hours, with no manufacturers in the room. There was a lot to talk about. I learned a lot.

Last week, the gang and I attended the annual meeting of the Commercial Food Equipment Service Association in Charlotte, N.C.

Both of these experiences reminded me of just how intertwined the functions are in this business. And believe me, I’m not naïve about some of the issues. You can’t hang out in this business for nearly four decades and not realize there are plenty of frustrations to go around. The consultants were forthright about their frustrations with dealer buying groups and the constant battle to hold their specs. (Manufacturers, of course, are not without blame in those battles.) Consultants and dealers alike know they are often competing for the same jobs. As one well-known consultant put it, it’s “not easy to get the channel to work as it should with mutual respect by all parties. Everyone should focus to ensure that the client receives full value for products and services.”  It’s good to have goals.

But, of course, there are also great consultant-dealer relationships. There are plenty of situations where there is “mutual respect by all parties.” All successful consultants learn the dealers they can trust and do their best to ensure those dealers win the bids on their jobs. Trust is a good thing.

On the service side, nearly everyone recognizes that in a mature foodservice market such as that in the U.S., we are all more dependent on servicers. Service agents have seen a lot of disruption in the past decade or so, with parts distribution separating from service itself, undercutting margins, in many cases. Service agents have consolidated, in part to align themselves with multiunit customers. And it’s a constant battle to find the technicians who actually do the work. All this is happening at a time when equipment  has become increasingly sophisticated and complex.

CFESA proudly showed off its new headquarters and training facility in Fort Mill, S.C., during the conference. It’s a great facility and a wonderful resource for the entire industry. I saw a calendar of the events planned for the facility. Included was a local FEDA chapter meeting. FEDA Pres. Joe Schmitt, who is also president of Rapids Wholesale Equipment, was on hand for the conference.

One of the promising developments of the past few years has been a renewed effort by all the key industry associations to spend more time together and work toward  mutual goals. All five core industry associations—NAFEM, MAFSI, FEDA, FCSI and CFESA—are now meeting regularly. There are plans to combine their annual meetings in 2018. It’s exciting.

But I urge all of you to work together locally too. Combine local chapter meetings. Play golf together. Just pick up the phone and talk to each other or have breakfast or go visit one another. The more we know each other, the better all this will work.

Robin Ashton

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