The Hidden Issue with Products: Operator Storage

To Foodservice Immersion attendees, one of the most surprising parts of the behind-the-scenes tour is the operator’s storage area. Our attendees simply can’t believe that a multi-million dollar foodservice operation devotes such a tiny amount of space to storage.

But, it makes sense when they stop to think about it. What smart businessperson would want to tie up cash flow with inventory that sits for weeks or months at a time? And who would want to take away valuable selling space—seating, take-out, prep areas—to do so?

Thinking about how operators use their storage space in real life is essential for the success of food manufacturers’ new and perennial products.  Every inch of the operator’s storage space has to work, and work efficiently. In their storage areas not only are there health codes that have to be met, but also inventories that must be done, and labor expended to get product in and out and arranged.

If an operator finds that a product hampers these efforts, they simply won’t order it. If they find a product’s packaging frustrating, they won’t order it more than once, if at all.

What are some common issues operators have with manufacturers’ packaging?

·      It doesn’t fit on their shelves.
·      It’s difficult to open.
·      It’s hard to rotate product.
·      It doesn’t have easily visible correct and helpful labeling.
·      It’s difficult to get the entire food product out of the packaging.

How can manufacturers meet operators’ storage needs? First, of course, make sure that product packaging satisfies the above issues. But also consider just how the operator actually uses that product.

·      Is there a way the product’s packaging can aid in preparation?
·      Can it be streamlined to take up less space?
·      Will the product in its packaging be used front of house—in a buffet, for example?
·      Is the product likely to be transferred from the original master packaging into the kitchen’s smaller and use-oriented containers? If so, is there a way the manufacturer can help that process?
·      Does the case pack meet the operator’s expected turnover for that product?
·      Is the case size a convenient size to fit on storage shelves? Is the weight easily handled? The packaging not too awkward to handle?

Communication between manufacturers, distributors, and operators is essential to enable product to move smoothly throughout the supply chain. Take the opportunity to speak with operators, visit their locations, and ask for a tour. As part of the Foodservice Immersion program we visit all major operator segments and in doing so we Q&A with operators, and tour all areas of the locations. We have found operators to be more than willing—eager, even--to share both what does and what doesn’t work for them.