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4 Supply Chain Management Tools Your Fast Food Business Can't Live Without

Posted by Lance Layman

May 2, 2016 12:00:00 PM

QSR supply chain executive team

The competition between QSR businesses was cutthroat well before QSR-Plus entered the picture. Today, with QSR and fast casual duking it out for the same market share, keeping your fast food supply chain aligned with emerging trends is the best way to stay ahead of the pack. Using tools that are tuned into the rich rewards of big data streams help by adding accuracy and efficiency. If these four must-have tools aren't influencing your supply chain yet, it's time to get on board and start listening to what they have to say. 

An Ear to the Ground

What do you get when you combine the data you already gather, process and store and consumer reactions to industry news on the web? An enviable peek into successful future operations. Your current analytics tools take a stream of high-quality data and find trends and correlations that can be easily capitalized on — in theory. You also need to keep a finger on the pulse of consumer reactions to assemble the best clues, however. Even if an item has done historically well each year in summer, a current scandal or diet trend could render that perceived advantage moot, leaving end retailers with an aging surplus on their hands.

While QSR companies didn't have access to live consumer trend mentions in the past, you do right now — and the right analytics tools, used faithfully, will ensure you leverage that advantage to its fullest. Eyeing the transparency initiatives of food industry competitors during this "analytics recon" can also help set the pace and tone for your own company's endeavors.

A Voice in the Field

While a major QSR brand could spend nearly endless hours refuting every negative comment or review found on social media, the chorus of mentions that await shouldn't deter smart companies from wading in with accounts of their own. The fastest and easiest way to build rapport with customers in the moment is to make your brand accessible and approachable on major social media platforms, especially in the food industry.  Unlike a durable good, a meal is chosen and consumed in less than an hour on a visit to a QSR or QSR-Plus establishment, which means that feedback, questions and concerns also typically appear in that very small window.

A well-monitored and well-managed fast food social media account is a priceless source of data: problems at specific restaurant locations, demands for certain specialty ingredients and questions about food products that can be spun into content and transparency are all as easily plucked as a vine-ripened tomato. Kimberlee Morrison of SocialTimes points out that the food and beverage industry receives the most mentions on social media; nearly twice that of its nearest industry competitor, clothing. Ensure that you're listening to and responding to those mentions and you'll have a ready-made audience and a prime demographic target in one fell swoop.

An Eye on the Chain

IoT is a buzz-acronym in all types of businesses, and fast food shouldn't be any different. With internet-linked inventory controls, shipping and receiving feeds and even transit tracking, the supply chain obstacles that once plagued an industry full of perishables needn't any longer. Katy Jones of FoodLogiQ explains that transparency helps your supply chain partners perform better, as well. Within reason, when certain key metrics are shared throughout the fast food supply chain, everyone benefits. When a buyer knows the scope of a drought-driven shortage of produce, for example, they can scale back their orders accordingly to better match supply and allocate those funds elsewhere. If a port closure — much like the ones that brought west coast receiving to a near-halt last year — seems imminent, the supply chain can start work immediately on a "Plan B" to reduce delays that could impact product quality. High-performing fulfillment and supply vendors can also clearly demonstrate their abilities and consistency, allowing supply chain buyers to make the best choices for their needs and budget. Real-time feedback is also vital; a timely heads-up allows warehouse managers and downchain companies to strategically plan, eliminating waste of resources and manpower and, in the long term, reduce overhead costs.

A Mind for Expenditures

Waste. It's arguably the most reviled term in any supply chain. No forward-thinking company likes to dwell on it, but it's an important reality that must be faced before it can ultimately be minimized. Calculating how much food is wasted in your current approach and how much you can curtail that number through future efforts will help your entire supply chain run more smoothly. The EPA notes that food waste isn't merely measured in product that has "gone bad" — food that could potentially be donated, packaging thrown away and wasted transport costs are also part and parcel of wasted product. In short, if you don't currently have a tracking and recording system in place to measure and mitigate food waste, set one up as soon as possible.

Your fast food supply chain is a machine that needs regular maintenance, and with these four tools, it will have the endurance and speed you need to dominate your industry segment. When all ears, eyes, voices and minds are concentrating on making your supply chain better, even the most unique obstacles won't stand a chance of unseating your QSR fulfillment mastery.

How Quick-Service Restaurants Can Find Balance

Written by: Lance Layman

Topics: Food Service, Technology, Supply Chain, QSR