Why We All Need to Care About the Food Industry


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Before Covid-19, few people would have considered the idea of ​​a country like America running out of staples like corn and infant formula. Since the pandemic, restaurants have closed, delivery has exploded and consumer preferences have changed. At the same time, supply chain problems have become a worrying new standard that goes beyond the empty shelves of supermarkets.

We’ll see the effects on menus when we dine in restaurants and cafes, as protein, fryer oil, packaging materials, and home appliance spare parts are harder to come by. Add to that a massive resignation and a shortage of cooks, food servers, farmers, field workers and anyone working with food throughout the industry, and prices will continue to rise. Birthday parties, weddings, even when business leadership wants to impress investors or hold team experiences with serviced corporate functions, they will feel that their budget is tighter. Food companies support families and boost economies, but since the pandemic, we have been learning in the most difficult way the importance of a functioning food industry.

I may have retired from my daily work, but I have not left this industry. In my new business approach, as a consumer and expert advisor, not as CEO, I see a lot more. It turns out that people’s food industry is huge. When I started to realize how many moving parts really serve to get people food, the set of considerations for improving the quality and safety and depth of all the moving parts of a food company, here n ‘there are some that surprised me.

Related: 3 Ways Small Businesses Can Survive the Supply Chain Crisis

Bigger than a box of bread

Restaurants may not seem like a comprehensive gear in a functioning economy, but they do generate jobs, not just in personnel and internal management, but in agriculture and transportation. In the U.S. alone, the food industry drives about 5% of total GDP, supports 11% of employment, and accounts for 10% of consumer discretionary income. Globally, food consumption costs $ 4 trillion. When restaurants thrive, the food industry behind it thrives, and when restaurants crash, the economy can go with it.

From the waitress who serves us the food to the chefs who cook it, the management who runs the restaurant, and the truckers, farmers, brewers and distillers who supply it; even technological innovators play an integral part in getting food to our table, and each moving part has its own complexity. Attention to the details of ethics and sustainability at every point of production, especially in a time of economic recession, can give companies in a struggling industry a competitive advantage.

Three guys who opened a garden brewery in Pasadena, California, celebrate their food like no one else in the industry, considering every angle of every moving part to bring maximum value to their consumers. They make sure their products are of ethical origin, use easy ingredients and are available locally whenever possible and buy everything from the right people. When consumers sit down to dinner at their restaurant, they can feel confident knowing and approving of all aspects of the financial support they give.

Related: The future of food: how biotechnology will save us all

A chef is more than a chef

All my years running a business in the food industry never prepared me for what I learned by serving on company boards. When I accepted the position on the board of directors of the James Beard Foundation, I thought the company was simply celebrating the great chefs and I focused on what I could contribute to the awards aspect of their business. Of course, being a James Beard Award winning chef is the pinnacle of his brand, but being on his board taught me the real work they do to support a chef’s journey.

The foundation helps train young chefs to understand what is needed beyond cooking good food. They offer workshops and programs on the business side of being a chef. Skills training can keep them competitive and better quality tools give them more ways to prepare beautiful food, and the contribution of each allows them to continue to heal their craft. Suddenly, the conversation about the food industry expanded to include knife makers, home appliance makers, and cutting-edge culinary technologies.

Like many industries, chefs need more representation and the foundation is working to make the restaurant industry more inclusive. Women make up less than a quarter of the country’s chefs and, on average, earn more than $ 10,000 less than men, so the foundation offers programs to support more industry chefs. My experience on the foundation’s board of trustees drew my attention to the connection between food and key social issues, such as diversity and gender equality. Learning all the intricacies of being a chef opened my eyes to how great the food industry really is.

Related: The 3 best food stocks to buy now

We can better run the industry

Working for a massive franchise, it may seem like I’ve learned everything there is to know about the food industry, but now I can learn how to do it better. Since I retired, I started consulting, I started to see the industry on a much larger scale and now I can advise aspects for which I never had time as CEO: vertical integration of raw materials, competitive purchasing and global markets. Consulting offers me even more ways to see and participate in an industry I have always loved and allows me to offer my years of experience to the next generation that will lead the innovation of this industry.

It can be huge and critical to our economy, but there will always be new considerations to make the food industry bigger and better and everything it touches. Consumer demand continues to drive sustainability and I love seeing the transition as people pay more attention to the trend, making it less expensive and easier to participate in and scale. I visited a new paper plant that produced sustainable packaging items: an evolution away from plastic and an exciting new direction for the industry. The beauty of business is to see how the new generations take what we have done well and do it better. This is how an industry not only grows to enormity, but thrives.

Related: Market forces alone are unlikely to solve the problem of food security

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