ArrowStream – the leading foodservice supply chain cloud – will be hosting re:Supply Innovation Summit on July 28th, 2022. The summit will bring together foodservice brands from across all aspects of the industry for a day of networking, collaboration, and innovation as we look to move the industry forward. In advance of the event, ArrowStream is presents an interview with Harriet Worrell, Sr. Director of Supply Chain at Checkers and Rally’s and a re:Supply Innovation Summit speaker.
1. Tell us about yourself. How did you get into the industry? How long have you been in foodservice?
I currently work for Checkers & Rally’s managing the purchasing team. My team manages all of the food, packaging, equipment & services purchasing for the brand. I work remotely out of Atlanta and I have a team of 6 people with 4 direct reports. My direct reports are located in Dallas, Richmond, Miami, & Pensacola.
I fell into foodservice completely by accident, it was not my goal. I originally graduated with a degree in Psychology with the intent of becoming a child psychologist. However, due to various twists and turns I took a different route and got started in purchasing at a publishing company in Florida. While I was working there as an international buyer, I applied for a job as a food buyer at Darden Restaurants. I didn’t expect them to hire me, but I got the job. I’ve been working in the industry for over twenty years now. I’ve stopped counting in all honesty.
2. What has changed the most about the foodservice industry since you started?
What has changed the most for me is the speed at which everything needs to be done. It seems to be nonstop. When I first got into the industry, there were slow times of the year where you could spend time catching up on your administrative work. There are no slow times anymore. It seems like it's full, speed all the time. Everyone needs everything “yesterday”.
3. What’s your favorite thing about working in foodservice? How do you think working in foodservice differs from other industries?
That's such a hard question for me to answer. I love negotiating contracts, which may sound crazy. Negotiating a contract that is beneficial to both the supplier and my company and finding that middle ground where we both benefit, makes my job enjoyable. Coming up through my supply chain career as a buyer, I was taught that you want to be in a mutually beneficial partnership. It's not about going in and seeing how you can get the most out of a supplier and not give them anything back, because in the end that partnership will fail. So, it's finding that middle ground where you're both happy and you both want to do what's best for each other.
I also enjoy working with culinary teams. Helping to bring their ideas to life and eventually seeing it on the menu is something I’ve enjoyed.
Lastly, I love the social aspect. I think the foodservice industry has some incredible people. I've met great people and have made some lasting friendships. There's so many people in this industry who have used their knowledge and contacts to influence and better their communities. I love spending time around all those great people.
4. What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve faced in your career so far?
For me specifically, one of the biggest obstacles is just moving up the ladder – and maybe other females have the same problem. Supply chain has historically been a male dominated industry and to be a female and to move up that ladder is really difficult. I do think it's getting better, though probably not as quickly as most of us would like. There are definitely some great females who have worked their way up, but most of the supply chain leaders are male and I think that's the biggest obstacle I’ve encountered.
5. Where do you believe things are headed with the future of the supply chain in 2022 and beyond?
I don't think we are going back to the pre-Covid supply chain, there's been a fundamental change. The pandemic forced suppliers to look at their customer base and they have become more selective about who they are willing to work with. They want to work with companies that they consider their true partners. Previously, a lot of suppliers were willing to have transactional relationships as long as they were relatively profitable. That’s no longer the case. They have limited resources and they are being more selective about who they partner with. That makes it more difficult on the purchasing side to find new sources. More suppliers these days are turning down opportunities to bid on new business.
We all thought that once the pandemic was over, we were going to go back to normal pre-Covid operations and that has not happened. Throughout 2021, everyone kept saying that 2022 would probably start off tough but that by the second half of the year it would start to get better. But, for a number of reasons, that hasn’t happened. It's a different world that we all have had to adjust to. We’re also looking at sourcing differently. Before the pandemic, everyone was thinking more globally. It was all about going overseas and finding sources in different parts of the world because you could get better costs. That thinking has changed because during the pandemic, if you were getting products made overseas, there was much greater risk of not having product. Now, we’re reconsidering that strategy and only going offshore if we absolutely have to, and if you do go offshore you can’t risk being single sourced.
6. How do you think technology impacts the supply chain and your operations?
I don't think the foodservice industry has embraced technology on the supply chain as much as we would like to because a lot of it is cost prohibitive. At least on the restaurant side of the business. Retail has done a much better job. However, a lot of what we would like to do, such as tracking product all the way through the supply chain from the manufacturer to the restaurant requires a financial commitment from not only our supplier partners but also our distribution partners and there just hasn’t been the overwhelming desire for us as an industry to make that investment.
I admire Amazon because I feel like they have perfected their supply chain. The fact that you can order something at 10pm and for some items you have the option to have that product on your doorstep at 7am the next day blows my mind. Or even less time than that for some products. From a supply chain point of view, it’s an amazing company that has perfected getting product from point A to point B. And when you consider how much product they move every day throughout the whole country, it is truly mind blowing.
To hear more from Harriet, join the waitlist to re:Supply here.