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National Restaurant Association - Emerging issues, social responsibility take center stage at supply chain summit

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Emerging issues, social responsibility take center stage at supply chain summit

Increased food costs and the challenges associated with distribution, quality assurance and inventory management topped the agenda at the National Restaurant Association's fall Supply Chain Management Executive Study Group summit in Orlando, Fla.

Committee chairman David Parsley, senior vice president of supply chain management for casual-dining company Brinker International, said the summit's primary goals included providing attendees with an opportunity for discussion on their respective best practices.

"Supply chain does not represent just one function," he said. "It stretches across all disciplines from the raw material to what we put in front of the guest. This meeting provides a forum for supply chain leaders to get together and talk about what the supply chain has to bear."

Parsley also noted that the group, which meets twice a year, is committed to providing perspective and guidance on emerging issues that affect the supply-chain side of the foodservice industry.

Speakers at the summit, held Oct. 15-16, included Charlie Arnot, chief executive of the Center for Foodservice Integrity, who asserted that today's restaurateurs must combine science and social responsibility in order to appeal to consumers and succeed in business.

"There is more pressure on brands now to change what happens in the supply chain," Arnot said. "Science in and of itself is not sufficient. In today's environment, you must consistently maintain social license. If the public trusts you to do what's right, you won't need to add restrictions."

The summit also hosted a session on how sustainable foodservice packaging is gaining traction in the industry and changing the way operators conduct their business. Moderated by Jeff Clark, a sustainability consultant for the NRA, the panel featured speakers Jim Hanna, director of environmental impact for Starbucks Coffee Company, Natha Dempsey, vice president of the Foodservice Packaging Institute, and Steve Sugden, director of sales for foodservice packaging manufacturer Genpak LLC.

The FPI's Dempsey said her group has a number of resources to offer restaurateurs seeking packaging options. "The tools are out there," she said.

Genpak's Sugden noted that questions still remain on whether consumers would be willing pay more for sustainably packaged products to offset operators' increased costs for those materials.

"The jury is still out, but it seems like they are [willing]," he said. "The bottom line is consumers are in favor of recycling, but [we don't know if] that ends at home."

Sugden added that more consumer information, education and understanding of sustainability is needed.

Rounding out the meeting were a session on the State of the Supply Chain in Foodservice, which featured an in-depth look at the results of new Technomic study on industry supply chain winners, and a presentation on Leadership and the Art of Influence, with Doug Waltman, president of the Kansas City Leadership Institute.

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