Column: The So What? With Joe Schumaker FCSI

A new Foodservice Consultant magazine column from Joe Schumaker FCSI asks why the current industry model is broken, what it has lost touch with, and how we collectively fix it

Throughout this series I’ll be posing the question: Why is the industry model currently broken? I don’t have all the answers for that – because it’s a substantial, far-reaching problem – but I do have some ideas for turning things around.

So, what is the problem? It comes down to something I believe in wholeheartedly. We have lost sight of what matters: that moment where a guest receives a plate of food. That transactional moment is the only reason everybody in this stream exists. We’re all in business to make money. But, over the last 50+ years, we have built a system around serving those transactions, including how we buy and specify equipment. It has quickly become a very low margin business. Companies at every level of the stream have had to figure out how to make more money. And that has created a storm of problems. There is too much shady stuff happening behind the scenes. Specifications that once were sacred are being blown out of the water because downstream players have less visibility of the process. People have become less ethical and less connected to what matters: serving that plate of food.

Consultants should be the most connected to this whole process because it’s our job to specify the right piece of equipment in the right situation for the right scenario. We therefore have a unique perspective. But around us, the rest of the industry has been scraping for a buck. There are societal and economic reasons for some of this, but the unfortunate thing is, it’s easy to get caught up in that race to the bottom and lose sight of what really matters. It has also meant that innovation has been stifled. One-upping your competition is not solving the problem. The reality is it’s very expensive to create a technologically forward kitchen and most R&D departments don’t have the bandwidth to really explore the next frontier.

Our industry does not do a great job of acknowledging these problems. The financial system within the industry doesn’t help. People aren’t necessarily motivated to try and deliver the latest technologies that are happening in every other industry because they’re too busy competing with each other. A large portion of our industry believes that doing the minimum is doing enough.

Into the Valley

If we take the Silicon Valley startup model, generally, it’s pretty simple. You create a minimum viable product (MVP) as quickly and inexpensively as you can test it so that you fail quick and fail cheap. You identify a problem, figure out a solution, test it, fail, and start the cycle again. Our industry needs to take that model of failing fast and trying new things. Throwing stuff against the wall to see what sticks.

Of course, there are health and safety codes to adhere to, and god knows it’s challenging to import equipment from other parts of the world. But we know these challenges. We need to break down some of these barriers that got created because of the financial needs of the industry. We’re putting our money in the wrong place.

Across this series, I’ll be exploring how we can be more thoughtful about where and how our resources are spent and the role consultants must play in that. The industry is broken. So what? So, let’s fix it. Together.

Further details:

So what do you think? Join the debate by contacting Joe: joe@myfoodspace com

About the author:

Based in Idaho, Joe Schumaker FCSI is the founder and CEO of FoodSpace.