2016 Fast Casual Executive Summit: Fazoli’s VP, Blaine Adams, Discusses the Supply Chain
Each year, Fast Casual hosts an Executive Summit where restaurant executives from all over gather to share their insights about the business and learn from one another. This year, Fazoli’s Vice President of Supply Chain and Quality Assurance, Blaine Adams, had the opportunity to participate on our behalf.
As a VP here at Fazoli’s, Blaine is responsible for making sure our supply chain is safe and the products that are produced by our suppliers are manufactured in quality facilities. He ensures that these facilities are audited annually, so our guests can rest assured knowing when they dine at Fazoli’s, they are getting great, wholesome menu items that they can feel confident about eating.
This year, Blaine was asked to be part of the Supply Chain Demystified panel, where he discussed the importance of having a brand’s supply chain under control and carefully monitored at all times, as well as the challenges business owners may face in doing so. Let’s take a look at what Blaine had to say:
Q: There are many fast-casual chains experiencing high growth, moving from a relatively small chain to a strong regional or national chain overnight. Can you speak to your experience of how the supply chain can stay ahead of such growth?
A supply chain needs consistent, great supplier partners. It’s important to partner up with a very good distribution company that has the reach and expertise to supply products on a national scale. It’s also important to partner with suppliers who can produce great quality products, and who also have relationships with key distribution companies. It’s critical to ensure suppliers have third party audits done annually, which will ensure they are practicing good manufacturing procedures, producing quality products, and have the ability to scale up their production schedule to support growth.
Q: What are some of the challenges you have run into during a high growth period?
Having the resources to ensure a successful rollout each and every time. Make sure the suppliers and distribution company can grow with you, and have the right team in place to ensure safe products are being made and delivered to each location on time.
Q: With margin pressures, government regulations, and the need to do more with less, the industry is seeing and using third parties to bring more leverage, expertise and resources. They range from Strategic Outsourcing, GPO’s, Category Management (Indirect Spend, Energy, FF&E), and Consultants. If you are using them, how? And if you’re not, why?
I believe it’s great to have an outside agency or independent consultant available to help provide some insight and guide you in making decisions for the organization. We currently use an independent consultant to help us with our commodities. He provides an overall view of the markets, both food and non-food (natural gas, fuel, building materials, ocean freight, etc.), and provides recommendations on taking coverage or waiting it out.
Q: Today you are part of a relatively big brand and may forget what it is like to be in a small brand without a lot of resources. What advice would you give a relatively new brand in setting up their supply chain?
Ensure the distribution company and the suppliers you are working with have all the credentials to ensure your supply chain is safe. Enlist trusted consultants that can recommend suppliers and help leverage your volume with some of their other customers. This will help ensure you are getting the best possible price for a particular item.
Q: The consumer today is demanding an ingredient list of items they recognize and can pronounce. Today we know this as “Clean Label.” How does this affect the supply chain and what is the process in getting to a clean label?
Fazoli’s is very proud to say that we have already started the process of removing artificial ingredients from our menu items. In fact, almost 95% of our current food items are completely free of artificial ingredients. This process will have an impact on any business due to the amount of resources needed to focus on: coordinating all the samples when they arrive, gathering all the decision makers into a room to review the items, and setting up items that go into test in our restaurants. And don’t forget the ongoing communication to our supplier partners. The process can also be costly depending on how many menu items are impacted. I believe that the consumer today does care about what they are eating and where the product is made. When they visit a restaurant, they want to know that the company is taking steps to ensure that menu items are safe, so they can feel good about eating at a particular restaurant.
Q: Recently we have seen a number of food safety incidences, as well as the implementation of the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act. This FSMA has language allowing criminal charges for those who might be accountable. How is quality assurance and food safety imbedded in your supply chain?
Fazoli’s is very serious about food safety and only uses suppliers and distributors who have high standards, good manufacturing processes in place, and are inspected annually by a third party (ASI, AIB, Silliker Labs, Cook and Thurber). We are very fortunate to have someone on our team that is responsible for making sure all our suppliers submit their audits to us. We review each audit to see their score and what the inspector found. We also keep updated specifications for each product and nutritionals. Again, we take food safety very seriously and are very pleased with our supplier partners.
Q: With such ominous federal laws, how does the supply chain participate in assisting the organization with their food safety requirements?
We have a very good relationship with our franchisee community and they understand the importance of food safety within the supply chain. All our food products are delivered by our approved distributor, who can only deliver what is set up for Fazoli’s. Our franchisees are not allowed to go outside of this network, so we can be sure the product that is delivered is the product that we have approved. The items that are set up in our distribution network are custom to Fazoli’s, meaning our restaurants/franchisees can only order what we bring in for them.
Q: When you decide to go international, what are the challenges and how do they change how the supply chain is managed?
Shipping products internationally can be difficult and time consuming depending on where the restaurant will be located. There are several areas of the world that can’t receive particular products or ingredients that go into making some recipes. An example would be opening a location in the Middle East, where pork products aren’t allowed. In this situation, specifications may need to be changed and menu items updated to ensure the menu item is accepted by that particular culture. To ensure the process is done currently, I would enlist the help of an expert who will be able to ensure all the paperwork is correctly done. They can also help with sourcing local ingredients and manufactures if needed, as well as make sure suppliers practice good manufacturing procedures. If we were to expand internationally, I would personally visit each country and potential manufacturer in order to be able to say, with certainty, that I feel comfortable with the way procedures are done within the plant. I think it’s extremely important to visit each facility to better understand their capabilities.
After completing the panel and returning back to Fazoli’s headquarters, we asked Blaine this: What do you hope attendees took away from your discussion?
His answer: A better understanding of how a supply chain works, and how critical using approved suppliers can be to an organization. I also hope folks realized that having a great supply chain can also help reduce costs when you find the right supplier partners.
If you’re interested in learning more about how Fazoli’s effectively manages and monitors it’s supply chain, or if you’re looking to start a Fazoli’s franchise of your own, please contact Sam Nelson at 1-800-446-4368 or fill out our information request form online.
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