Ever since the late Carl Scharffenberger and his wife, Mary Ellen, established Food Sales West in 1974, the Costa Mesa, Calif.-based foodservice brokerage firm has consistently grown and attained its goal of being the most sought-after foodservice sales resource to top-tier manufacturers on the West Coast, President Dave Lyons says.
Food Sales West continues to abide by its core values of “technological leadership,” “regionalization” and “proven sales results” through strategic expansion via selective acquisition and by investing in state-of-the-art technology and innovative training methodologies to maintain talent within its 170-person staff.
The fact that Food Sales West has followed an employee stock ownership plan since 1983 fuels employees’ motivation to produce exceptional sales results for its clientele, Lyons explains. “The company’s most important asset is our people,” he asserts. “By hiring effective, highly motivated salespeople, we have a long track record of exceptional sales results for our principals.”
In addition, Food Sales West went a step above and beyond typical foodservice brokers by hiring accomplished chef Van Atkins as its executive chef and director of culinary. Bringing more than 30 years of culinary experience, Atkins assists customers and manufacturers with menu development, recipe support, nutritional analysis, food trends, staff training, food handling, equipment utilization and labor optimization.
“With Van, we have created a culinary team of trained chefs, and this has added a whole new dimension to our company,” Lyons notes. “Because operators are look¬ing for new solutions, we’re being a lot more creative and consultative in our sales process. Through our culinary team, we are showing customers how a product ultimately benefits the consumer.”
Food Sales West continues to excel in its regionalization efforts, essentially growing along with its customer base, Lyons says. For quite some time, the company has held a leading position in the California and Nevada markets, but a series of acquisitions in the past five years has expanded its footprint to include Arizona, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Idaho and Utah.
“In most cases, we’ve expanded with our major manufacturers and grown strategically to better serve their customers,” he states. “It benefits them because they have less points of contact and a more consistent go-to market strategy, which reduces costs on their bottom line. We’ve been fortunate that the companies we’ve purchased matched our culture because our culture is one of employee ownership and providing opportunities for employees to grow.”
Food Sales West’s focus on regionalization has helped it overcome unfavorable economic conditions. “One of the reasons regionalization was so important to us was because we felt the growth potential was stagnant,” Lyons remarks. “When you add territory, you’re able to add more customers. We’ve also become a lot more strategic and collaborative with our manufacturers in the planning process and more focused on our selling efforts throughout our entire footprint.”
Specifically, Food Sales West focuses on various channel segments, such as colleges and K-12 schools, healthcare, hospitality, multi-unit chains and full-service restaurants, with dedicated directors overseeing each channel. “Starting with a strategic plan that is developed with our manufacturer partners, we assign specific sales objectives to the directors and the segment specialists under each director,” Lyons explains. “Once that is completed, all parties are held accountable for achievement of these objectives utilizing our custom EStreet software system.”
On the Cutting Edge
Food Sales West continues to embrace the digital age by investing in cutting-edge technology to help it better serve its customers. The company developed its first order entry system for foodservice in 1979 and pioneered the industry’s first field sales program in 1984.
The original developers formed an independent company – EStreet Software based in Sarasota, Fla. – in 2003, which currently markets foodservice software nationwide. EStreet Software’s FS StreetSmart sales agency management app¬lications are a cornerstone of Food Sales West’s growth and profitability strategy because they provide its sales force with effective sales and marketing tools, CFO and CIO Bonnie Crawford says.
“This technology was custom-made for foodservice sales agencies,” Crawford states. “It is security coded, password protected, and our sales team can access it as needed to help them in their sales processes and planning.”
Food Sales West also has ramped up its training efforts through its association with Waypoint, a group of leading regional brokers throughout the country, and the Forum Corp., an international training organization with a program utilizing a 10-step selling process that was developed by Waypoint.
“Through our Waypoint affiliation, we have seen a significant increase in our performance levels, skill sets and strategic capabilities as far as hiring practices, strategic planning, and most important, selling for our principals,” Lyons says.