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Conference Attendees Collaborated on Barriers and Solutions During the 2021 Presidents Conference


At IFMA’s President’s Conference, both suppliers and chain restaurant operators participated in a session to determine how best to work together. This included a collaborative workshop that encouraged stakeholders to explain challenges in the QSR and FSR segments and to then develop solutions and opportunities that would optimize the value chain and enhance business relationships.

The sessions began with a discussion of the framework - or pyramid - that was developed by the Foodservice Leadership Councils (FLC). The strategic plan for each Foodservice Leadership Council is to provide thought leadership through insights with supply-chain members, which in turn helps to optimize the value chain (or ecosystem) and bring value to all trading partners.


The Challenges with Chain Restaurants


While supply chain shortages and labor scarcity are chronic problems, the roundtable discussions accepted these as a given in the industry and tried to dig a bit deeper into challenges inherent in the segment. The challenges and the comments and details are listed in the table below.


Challenge Details / Comments
Lack of Conduit for Sharing Information
  • The IFMA councils are a good conduit for information, but more is needed.
  • Covid-19 forced companies to react instead of plan, which has had a negative impact on strategic planning.
Providing Solutions to Operators
  • Collaboration among manufacturers, distributors, and operators is an ongoing challenge.
  • There are several layers that can be a hindrance to delivering relevant innovations to specific concepts.
Penetrating Stores
  • Chains are among the hardest of the segments to penetrate because the competitive intensity and gatekeepers are prevalent.
Identifying Operator Needs
  • Carryout and delivery are top-of-mind and major opportunities at the moment, yet manufacturers and operators have not been aligned with the complexities of concepts (FSR and QSR) and unique needs.
Labor and Supply Chain
  • The councils would be remiss if the issues with supply and labor were not mentioned. These are viewed as indefinite issues.


The Opportunities and Solutions: Chain Restaurants


Once conference attendees collectively voiced challenges facing chain restaurants, the next step was to jointly collaborate on solutions. Some of the solutions proposed to make the ecosystem and its trading partners operate more smoothly included 1) more proactive manufacturer communication on new products and out-of-stocks, 2) the continued need for social consciousness and sustainability messaging/products, and 3) best-practices guidance from manufacturer experience.


Solutions Details / Comments
Manufacturer Communication
  • Instead of relying solely on distributors and brokers for information, manufacturers would serve chains well with proactive information and insights and more frequent presence in account management.
Supply Rate Communication
  • Instead of informing chains of product shortages after the fact, chains believe technology and “data transparency” could be better utilized to offset this major issue.
  • While supply and labor have been at the forefront, social consciousness remains critical to chain patrons - particularly Millennials and Gen Z. 
  • Chains would like to see manufacturers share more information on practices and responsible sourcing, etc., to better inform their own patrons.
Innovation Best Practices
  • Manufacturers should share best practices from larger, more established chains to help with various innovations - POS, operations and HR.


The Next Steps for the Councils


In January 2022, the five Foodservice Leadership Councils will reconvene in a live conversation, open to all members, and report on the status of the solutions shared in each session. IFMA will release the dates and times of each session at the end of December, 2021.



About the Foodservice Leadership Councils: In the fall of 2018, several leading operators across different industry segments approached IFMA looking for help. They felt their communities were underserved in the areas of insights, business best practices and more effective connectivity with manufacturers.  They also recognized the opportunity to learn from each other and the broader industry to better serve their customers.

For operators interested in learning more about the ongoing council work and access to upcoming resources, visit IFMAworld.com/council, or contact Jim Green at jgspartan@aol.com. You will receive updates on council activities and have complimentary access to whitepapers, webinars, and conferences. 

The chain restaurant collaborative discussion at Presidents Conference 2021 was sponsored by: