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


The Healthcare Foodservice Leadership Council collaboration sessions with operators, manufacturers and a handful of distributors revealed several challenges and opportunities. Among those were hiring, communication with stakeholders, and the need for a better understanding from suppliers of the segment prior to sales calls.


The FLC Strategy


The healthcare collaboration session opened with defining the purpose of the Foodservice Leadership Councils: To provide thought leadership through collaboration with trading partners, that reduces friction and smooths the value chain - or ecosystem - in healthcare. Through the efficiencies in communication and relationships, the value of foodservice is enhanced for customers.


The Challenges with Healthcare Foodservice


While supply chain shortages and labor scarcity are ever-present, 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 comments are listed in the table below.


Challenge Details / Comments
On-Time Deliveries
  • This is related to supply-chain shortages, but operators indicated that timing could be better communicated by manufacturers, FMCs, and distributors.
SKU Overload
  • There are “massive” numbers of SKUs, and operators would like to see manufacturers and distributors streamline them.
  • The need for skilled labor.
  • A method to garner interest in working in the segment.
  • The question of the value GPOs bring to the segment.
  • Other than pricing advantages, there is a question whether GPOs offer other benefits or are simply another layer of complexity.
Foodservice Area Relevance Post-Covid
  • Execution of salad bars, grab-and-go and self-scan marketplaces are unclear across the segment.
  • How will foodservice be positioned post-Covid?
Local and Regional Regulations
  • State, county, and local regulations have tightened due to Covid, adding to an already complex regulatory environment.


The Opportunities and Solutions with Foodservice


Once conference attendees from the value chain reviewed and documented the challenges facing healthcare foodservice, the next step was to jointly collaborate on solutions. Some of the proposed solutions are underway - such as the “bowl” program to help with standardization, while menu (or SKU) reductions, manufacturer segment training, and supply flexibility were also discussed.


Solutions Details / Comments
Continuity Among Channels
  • Healthcare operators believe manufacturers can bring best-practice solutions to them in the same way they target national chain customers. 
Menu Reductions
  • Manufacturers can collaborate earlier in the product-development process to help healthcare operators with menu success.
Build for Flexibility
  • Operators acknowledge product shortages are likely to continue into the future, but healthcare has strict guidelines where substitutes will not suffice. 
  • Operators are looking to collaborate with distributors and manufacturers earlier and often to prepare for the specific needs of the healthcare segment, which is complex and “strict,” in one manufacturer’s words.
Product Standardization Across Channels
  • One of the initiatives the Healthcare FLC has been working on is the “bowl program,” which provides parameters to manufacturers who can then deliver standardized “turn-key” products. This initiative is already underway.
Training for Manufacturers
  • An introduction to healthcare foodservice is in the works for staff new to the industry, in conjunction with IFMA. It will model Foodservice Fundamentals, which is offered today by IFMA.


The Healthcare FLC Live Meetings Will Resume in January, 2022


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 in 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 healthcare collaborative discussion at Presidents Conference 2021 was sponsored by: