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Foodservice Recovery Part 2: Longterm Change

For the last year, the Produce Marketing Association BB #:153708 has met with a group of members weekly to discuss the state of produce in foodservice. As PMA predicts that the business will start to come back by summer, the group projects where the industry will go next.

This is part 2 of a 3-part series compiled by Lauren M. Scott, Chief Strategy & Membership Officer of PMA

WHAT WILL BE SLOW TO BUILD?

Certainty / Forecasting

Estimating 2-3 years to get back to pre-pandemic levels. Need to look at how long because you need to look at future capacity needs. But when you dissect into different channels i.e.: Travel & Entertainment, Business & Industry, etc., events it will be a smaller build and what it looks like is unknown. -Operator

We are going to get off defense and survival because there are plenty of opportunities when you look at the trends, but you need to work with people to bring forth the new applications. -Grower

Even through it opens up, you don’t know if consumers are coming out. You have a great hope people come in and you need to have product. If they don’t, people get gun shy to not have waste, but by that week customers are more comfortable and are not prepared. -Operator

As a group, you need to have a strategy of will you incur the risk of shrink or be short on product. It’s a strategic choice, but the challenge is financial and if an operator is tenuous, it will be tougher. -Operator

Literally, how food is served. Who touched my food is still in the back of their mind and if that persists, you will see a longer term shift. -Grower

Some customers (operators) will be great and remember who was helpful to keep product in stock, and some will have no memory of how bad it was and go back to how they used to operator with their supplier and grower partners. -Operator

The fall was catastrophic and the build back up will be a challenge because money is tight, people and resources are tight. -Distributor

WHAT HAS CHANGED FOREVER?

Cheap and Easy Buys: Hopefully, the mentality of whoever I can buy from whatever I want will dissipate and it leads to more partnership, collaboration and support across the supply chain so people can plan, organize and project. -Distributor

Belief that it can’t get worse: It’s a change in mindset because it can get worse, so how do you make it better. This means less reliance on the status quo. -Grower

Ways of doing business : We have learned that we can have meetings and sessions with customers remotely. We will still meet face to face but the ways of working will change. -Grower

WHAT IS YOUR WORD OF ADVICE?

COLLABORATE: We can’t do this on our own. We are not combatants. It’s an attitude. -Grower

BE OPTIMISTIC: BE HELPFUL. -Grower

DON’T TAKE SHORT CUTS : When you have to grow quickly, you don’t follow all of the policies and processes that you put in time. You scramble and throw people at the problem vs. processes. We should have been planning for the ramp up and how are we are smart about it vs. band aids. -Distributor

KEEP YOUR CULTURE : Don’t just hire a lot of people. Hire the people who have the skill sets for the future. It takes more time, and you need them, but you have to do it right to avoid problems in the future. -Distributor

HAVE AN OPEN MIND GOING FORWARD : Don’t be stuck in the past but open to how it might. -Grower

BE BOLD BUT BE SMART: There’s a business lost to waste, but let’s make sure we take care of the customer. If you have extra figure out a way to sell it. -Grower

Have OPTIMISM: We’ve been through hell and back, and the government, the public and the industry did not understand or appreciate the magnitude, but you keep going. We are about to ride the positive wave. Don’t wait. Get yourself strong and in shape to be ready when the rocket takes off -Distributor.

Lauren M. Scott is Chief Strategy & Membership Officer of the Produce Marketing Association, Newark, DE.