Round Table Series: Best Practices in Category Management

Professional Development

The National Restaurant Association's Supply Chain Management Spring and Fall conferences have become the can't miss conferences for connecting with a community of supply chain professionals in the restaurant industry. Built by operators for operators these conferences supercharge your professional network and provide opportunity for robust discussion of solutions to your greatest challenges.

For the next several weeks we're highlighting round table discussion notes from our Curated Networking Session last October in Orlando, Florida.


Best Practices In Category Management

This discussion highlighted several important topics for the industry.

Managing lead times and menu development

  • Concepts have seen a huge benefit during COVID with improving relationships with culinary teams to guide them on working with suppliers that have capability and capacity to support national programs. Even having bi-weekly meetings to review open projects to allow supply chain to be part of the initial conversation has been a big help.
  • Trying to work with concepts to open the R&D conversation to options that fit better core competencies for suppliers versus only looking at proprietary items.
  • Communication with concepts, suppliers, and DCs has vastly improved during COVID with sharing inventory and production information. Still a balance of trust with planning since everyone is striving to build safety stock. 


Cost savings focus across brands and suppliers

  • Suppliers are seeing more brands re-assessing clean label initiatives - asking if certain requirements are still important to the customer.
  • Concepts are seeming to steer away from RFPs and shifting focus to long-term agreements to allow suppliers to dig in for unique cost saving opportunities that are sustainable.
  • The cost impact from the sesame seed regulations will be important to watch over the upcoming year although most bakeries have elected to include sesame ingredients in order to over-claim ingredient statements.
  • Looking at options to change minor spec details or working with suppliers to shift to other similar items they already produce to avoid change overs.


  DSD models shifting to frozen bread … potentially

  • More now than ever, frozen bread is a possibility and teams are now engaging with internal groups to drive discussion and options.
  • Still concerns on store freezer capacity and operational challenges on procedures with space and equipment to thaw product.
  • A positive impact on DSD recently has been more visibility with component pricing to allow for fact based conversations with fresh suppliers.
  • Fresh suppliers have driven a lot of concern with multiple concepts in terms of dropping service to unprofitable markets or increasing margins to align with retail.
  • DC networks for many concepts have shifted and driven more need for re-distribution which is particularly expensive as frozen bread becomes a priority.
  • Big concerns from DC partners on managing frozen bread due to costs with adding additional days of service and limited frozen storage. Will need significant time for planning re-routes if it is even possible to overcome storage constraints.


Author: Supply Chain Scene