This article is sponsored by US Foods. This article is based on the DISHED conference Q&A with John Miko, National Director of Sales for Senior Living at US Foods. The Q&A took place on June 1, 2022 in Orlando, Florida. The discussion has been edited for length and clarity.
Senior Housing News: We have John Miko here. John, tell me about what’s going on at US Foods these days.
John Miko: We just rolled out our vitals program. Vitals is around resident satisfaction, labor and staffing, and cost savings. That’s our marketing program and our business solution tools that are available to all of our customers.
We’re also rolling out a new program with Procurement Partners called Trend View 360. It’s going to be basically a view of all of your costs into your system that affect your PRD and allow you to drill down to the community level, to the item level. We’re excited about that. We just finished up a series of webinars with Pineapple Academy that were designed to help people through the pandemic.
Obviously the topic today is partnering to optimize purchasing, saving labor, and increasing resident satisfaction. Can you expand on that?
I think the first thing we talk about when we’re talking with our customers is how do we help you optimize what you’re buying? Part of what we want to do is make sure that whatever you’re buying through your GPO partner when you’re buying it through US Foods, it is the right item that fits your needs, but it’s also tied to your GPO offering. It has a contract assigned to it and ultimately we have standardized products throughout our distribution networks. We want to make sure that you’re buying the best product at the best price that meets your needs. We are constantly looking to optimize what you purchase to make sure that you’re effectively purchasing at the best level you can.
I’ve talked to a lot of operators. I think it’s no secret to anyone in this room that staffing is probably your biggest challenge. Labor shortages are something a lot of operators are dealing with. What can distributors do to help in this area specifically?
With staffing, I think what we could do is make doing business with us easy. We want to make the folks that are in the back of the house for you, their job of receiving products, ordering products, getting products in as easy as possible. That means good service levels going in. That means that we make sure that we’re communicating about any shorts or anything that’s happening with the supply chain and really trying to make their life as easy as possible. We have some great technology tools that help us do that.
We also have people in the field that are helping our account executives that are in close contact with the community. We can help you save labor by making their job easier and making it easier to do business with your distributor. I challenge every distributor to do the same. We should be stepping up right now like we never have before.
I’ve heard that a lot from operators as well that it’s the time to step up. Another trend that I’ve seen in senior living over the years is the trend of hospitality, working hospitality into your culinary operations. What is your perspective on that?
I think that hospitality companies like Sysco, US Foods, Gordon, we do hospitality very well and just bringing it to senior living is a natural fit. It’s better for you, and brings a product together that is better for your residents, makes them happy, but is healthier for them and helps them enjoy life. We are always looking for ways to continue to push the envelope with hospitality.
We have a product line called scoop. This comes out three times a year, and these are products that are labor savings that are on-trend and that for your operators, we’ll be able to set the plate apart for your residents. We do things like caramelized sliced onions, pickled red onions, green chickpeas, IQF chickpeas, we have slow-roasted tomatoes, we have a lot of ingredients that can go into your dishes to make it more of a signature dish. To us, that’s the hospitality bent on it. We want to give you products that save labor but make your residents happier.
US Foods offers something called ‘Hungry for Better’. Tell me more about that.
Hungry for Better is really our sustainability platform, we look at responsible sourcing of the product. Eco-friendly packaging, identifying locally sourced products, and making sure the locally sourced products are evident when you’re placing an order. There’s a lot more plant-based products in it, but really it leans towards hospitality, but it’s really about being good stewards of the environment and making sure that what we sell you is reducing its carbon footprint.
US Foods has a lot of experience in technology. As you look across senior living and your clients, what’s working for your customers now and maybe what are some of the new interesting technologies we’re using?
Our e-procurement platform, when partnered with Procurement Partners, something we have a punch through that goes directly to our procurement platform, but our procurement platform is like an Amazon purchasing platform. What it does is it allows you to go in and say your catalog and the items you purchase that are part of your order guide. It’ll have three pictures of every product, it’ll have recipes, it’ll have nutritionals. Ultimately what it does is allow you to purchase the right product and that makes the shopping easier.
It also shows you inventory so you can allocate inventory when you place your order. We also have the ability to tie into it, a tool we have called master list management which you can set your own substitutions. When Brandywine is placing their order, if that four-ounce chicken breast is out, they know that they’re going to go out to the contracted eight-ounce chicken breast or the three-ounce chicken breast.
That’s what our technology allows us to do. It really will make sure that the shopping experience is as robust as possible. What’s been great about it during the pandemic is it’s really created a better service level because we didn’t have as many, we gave our customers the ability to manage their outs and see substitutions, see inventory, and ultimately have higher service levels because of it. I mentioned a little bit about master list management.
That’s a tool that we have that allows you to manage your order guides and lockout products and set your own substitutions. Then another tool that we talk about is Trend View and the new iteration called Trend View 360 coming out is basically a costing tool that helps you track your PRDs. It’ll show you what’s being purchased in every community. You could benchmark your communities. Then you could build down into top performer, underperforming communities. Then you get to drill down directly into the products they buy and you could see what products they buy that are the cost drivers that are affecting their PRDs.
With Trend View 360, the new iteration, it’s going to include more suppliers outside of US Foods as part of that environment. It’s a total cost containment system where you can see your PRDs and what’s driving your costs.
Again, staffing is hard, but another trend is food cost. On top of that, I think what residents are coming into communities wanting these days, they want fresh ingredients. They want exciting ingredients. I think as we all know, those are not always the cheapest ones. How can organizations determine if their spend is in line with the rest of the industry?
That’s a good question. I think you have to understand what your per-resident-day figure (PRD) is and what your goal PRD is first. Then if that’s in alignment with your goal PRD, then you need to look within your own community base and who’s performing, who’s underperforming and try to manage everybody to an ideal PRD. I don’t think there is one ideal PRD because everybody has different needs, different levels of service but I think what you need is visibility and the ability to track and monitor what you do have and how close you are to your budgets.
Supply chains are another major issue for operators these days. What are you seeing in supply chains? How can you help there as well?
I think with the supply chain, it all starts around communication. It’s a dynamic situation with what we get when we order from our vendors. When it gets out to our customers, we need to make sure that we have great visibility and that we are communicating very well. You know some quick stats, when we order products from our manufacturers, we get about 83% of what we order inbound. When we send it out to our customers, it’s at about 97% before substitutions and about 99% after substitutions. If you’re closing the gap between 83% to 99%, there’s a lot of manipulation that goes into that.
Things we’ve done is we take deeper inventories at our distribution centers. We have more suppliers that we’re dealing with. We’re really going to add more products and availability to close the gap to get to service levels as they were like pre-COVID in 2019.
Is there anything else that you want to mention?
I think the challenges out for all the distributor partners in the room to partner up with you to make, give you the resources, have great communication, and to help you move on from what the pandemic was and to what you should be, help you be disruptors and what you do in your individual communities. Really we’re here to help you. We want to partner with you. We should be helping you save labor. We should be bringing you ideas. I’m really excited to be here today and talk a little bit about what we can do but that’s on behalf of all the distributors in the room. Thank you.
US Foods is one of America’s leading food distributors servicing restaurants, the healthcare industry, and more. Learn about the food supply services, visit https://www.usfoods.com/.