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National Restaurant Association - Execs share on complexities of supply-chain management

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Execs share on complexities of supply-chain management

Developing good relationships with suppliers and distributors is key for restaurant supply chain executives, according to panelists at an education session on supply chain management issues earlier this week at the 2012 National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show.

Strategic suppliers have resources to help restaurant operators get the best quality products at the best price, said Dean Gordon, of Jack in the Box. "Look for those opportunities to bring costs down. Communication is key. Be sure everyone understands your objectives," he said.

Janet Erickson of Del Taco concurred that supply chain people need to speak up to their company's leaders about their challenges, especially since commodities have become more and more volatile in today's economic environment. "We can't change what happens in any of the commodities markets, but we can manage around that and have a plan," she said.

She also said supply chain executives should be involved in menu planning because of their knowledge of issues that impact commodities price fluctuations.

David Parsley of Brinker International and chairman of the NRA's Supply Chain Management Executive Study Group said that all parts of the restaurant business have an effect on supply chain. "The more you can get into the nuances, the more you understand the flow of products into your restaurant," he said.

Independent restaurant operators also need to understand supply chain and to constantly watch for overcharges and ways to save money, Parsley said. Operators should make sure their suppliers know that they have competition and that there are no entitlements.

"Get the right suppliers for your company," Gordon said. "Understanding where you fit in your supplier's portfolio of customers is important."

Erickson outlined additional issues that supply chain executives need to be concerned about today, including new legislation, traceability capability in case of food recalls, animal welfare, and how factors such as weather, geopolitics and turmoil in the Middle East impact the price of commodities, as well as food safety.

Moderator Sam Stanovich, NRA industry relations manager, said it's projected that the restaurant industry will buy $225 billion worth of products this year.

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