Editor’s Take: Common Concerns, Common Solutions

I’m the first-born child in my family, yet I can’t help but feel like a middle child as a consumer. As a member of Generation X, I fall somewhere between game-changing millennials and traditionalist baby boomers.

I enjoy the option of ordering my morning latte on the Starbucks app and picking it up from a shelf with nothing more than a nod to the barista as I jet out the door. But I also expect and appreciate attentive, unrushed service when I sit down to a meal in a restaurant.

Serving both of these very different mindsets is a challenge that’s been confounding the restaurant industry since digital-native consumers were old enough to pay for their own food. But it’s a balancing act not unique to operators.

Speaker after speaker at the Foodservice Equipment Distributors Association annual conference in April addressed the evolving dealer-operator relationship and how important it is to understand what value means to end-users.

To some it’s the traditional high-touch, soup-to-nuts service that many dealers have built their business and reputation on. To others, it’s all about convenience, whether or not that involves interaction with a human being. “The value proposition is so different depending on who you’re talking to,” said Gene Clark, president of Clark Food Service Equipment, on a panel about the future of the industry. “None are right or wrong, they’re just different.”

It’s a challenge for hiring as well, others at FEDA acknowledged. And with the post-millennial demographic, Gen Z, about to leave college and enter the workforce, it’s only going to grow.

It can be hard to change the systems and culture of a business to ensure it’s inviting to new generations without being alienating to established ones. But just as operators and dealers share a common challenge, perhaps they may find answers in sharing their solutions.

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