Working the Chain Gang

We recently exhibited at the always unique “Chain Gang” show in California. We’re no strangers to shows; whether it’s a distributor food show or industry trade show, there’s always some sort of event at which to attend or exhibit.

But this annual show, which focuses on multi-unit chains, is always a bit different because of each chain’s unique needs.

Below are some of the takeaways we found from exhibiting at the show. Some are important to our company from a business standpoint, some are interesting trends in the industry, and some are just interesting!

  • Chains are looking for creative new ways to separate themselves from the competition with limited time offerings. There was even barbecue flavored ice cream next to us.
  • As technology continues to expand within the world, the chains want to find ways to stay on top of it.  That may be using forecasting tools for inventory or contract management tools that ensure their distributor is adhering to their contract pricing.
  • With the growing number of chains it is becoming increasingly harder for these chains to receive the number of slots they require from the distributors. As a result they are looking for ways to reduce skus or utilize the stock products the distributors are carrying.
  • One chain told us that chains are starting to go away from the plastic bags and moving towards brown paper bags. Additionally, instead of white and colorful bags they want simple ones like Chipotle that tell a story. Research has shown this leaves a lasting impression with the customer.
  • Chains are looking for different ways they can better utilize/repurpose their labor.

That last point is one of the big trends we continue to see and is, in part, the impetus for our new automated labeling system, the Date Code Genie. This system helps any restaurant – a multi-unit chain or independent restaurant – save time by printing prep labels rather than writing down individual labels.

Between the interesting insights from the chain restaurants and the barbecue flavored ice cream, I’m already counting down the days until next year’s chain gang show.