Executive Spotlight: Anissa Mandell Chance, VP Supply Chain Focus Brands


Executive Spotlight – Anissa Mandell Chance, VP Supply Chain Focus Brands

Interview conducted by Supply Chain Scene, February, 2020


SupplyChainScene:  Tell us about your background and the roles you've held that have led to where you are now.

Anissa Mandell Chance:  My career history has been really been about putting down roots and a foundation with the companies that I have worked for. I've been in the hospitality industry my entire career, and I mean literally my entire career.  Starting when I was 14 years old working as a server. I was in operations for about 10 years of my career - I think I've done every role possible, from a being a server, a bartender, a trainer and eventually became a manager. There were a lot of zigs and zags along the way as I moved up the ladder.

After about 10 years on the operations side, I decided I wanted to try the corporate side of the business and moved into a Supply Chain role, which at that time we called “Purchasing” since Supply Chain was not even a term used then. I was with that company for almost nine years that was eventually purchased by Applebee's. I did not want to move to Kansas, so I decided to stay in Atlanta and went to work for Rare Hospitality, who owned Longhorn Steakhouse & The Capital Grille. I was with them for ten years and that was really where I gained a great deal from a career development standpoint.

Darden later bought Rare Hospitality. It was a similar situation to before, where I didn’t want to leave Atlanta. I stayed on with Darden as a consultant until I found another opportunity to work for a regional concept, Taco Mac. I had so many hats in that role that my head was heavy, but it was a great experience. I was able to start up their supply chain and make a significant impact through initiating and negotiating contracts for all food, beverage, paper, chemicals and FF&E.

Then came the opportunity to work for Focus Brands. I was hired as the VP of Supply Chain for Moe’s Southwest Grill.  When I started, we had a very siloed system where each brand managed its own end-to-end supply chain. We literally had a “dream-team” then. It was a challenging, very demanding role, but I adored our team and our then President, Paul Damico, was instrumental in gelling us into a very tight-knit team.

About three and a half years into that role, we started our supply chain optimization effort and I was promoted to Vice President of Distribution and Logistics for Focus Brands. Then it was five - and soon thereafter - six brands. Today we are at seven brands. Then my role changed - still Vice President, but Vice President of Supply Chain because my role expanded beyond distribution and logistics.

SCS: So, seven, SEVEN brands.....

AMC: I know. I say this all the time, but it's kind of like having seven kids.

SCS: That's a lot of responsibility. From a high - level 36,000 feet standpoint, what are you looking at right now and are there any initiatives you're directly overseeing across those brands that you can share?

AMC: Yes. So, a lot of what I spent the last six years doing is really aligning our distribution providers and trying to strategize how we put this puzzle together with seven brands, each with very unique needs and different cultures. We don't fit neatly in one basket - it's just too much. But we're creating these relationships with distribution providers and always working to ensure continuity of supply.  As our distributors look at the landscape, which is as you know in the distribution area is volatile right now, very volatile, we want to be the customer they want to work with. The customer that doesn't get rationalized out. But at the same time, always making sure that we're looking out for our brands’ best interest by protecting them and driving their initiatives. It's a very delicate balance! And basically, you have both parties that are important and somehow you must make all of it connect in a symbiotic way. And obviously ensuring safe and quality food is paramount for us as a supply chain and as a company.

I'm really fortunate because I've got a great team and we've got some phenomenal suppliers that we work with. Honestly, without them, I don't think we would be as successful as we are today. We've got some key strategic manufacturers/suppliers that have made a difference in how we do business. So, the biggest responsibility is driving our brands’ initiatives and delivering great results to our Franchisees because they are the heartbeat of it all.

SCS:  I have to assume with that much responsibility there's got to be some technology involved. Can you speak to the technology that you're currently using in your role and how do you see future developments in technology benefiting the procurement field?

AMC: I think that as of right now, at least from my lens there is not one company that can fulfill all the needs of the supply chain technology that we need. But I believe that in the next five years, somebody will be able to put that end-to-end technology together. I'm referring to a system that can give you end-to-end visibility so you can easily understand all facets of your supply chain and where your products are at every stage, giving you a clear view of where your risk is and where the gaps are.

Right now, we have to take information from multiple sources and integrate it. That's clunky and requires some manual work and I really want to get away from that. So hopefully somebody reads this article and says, "Hey, that's an opportunity. Let's come up with a single platform".

It really is a space that no one has effectively owned yet, so there's a lot of opportunity there. And really, technology should always be the forefront of our progress and we should always be striving for bigger, better, faster. How do we get more nimble and make quicker decisions? Unfortunately, our industry is falling behind in the adoption of new technology. But I do think we'll get there. It's becoming necessary to in order to survive in such a crowded space - QSR, Fast Casual, Casual Dining, it's a very crowded space. Technology can help you really leverage your business and can give a competitive advantage over your competitors.

Especially from the perspective of managing labor cost, food cost and all the vital efforts that support restaurant profit. At the end of the day we have to do whatever it takes to help make our franchisees profitable. Otherwise, why own a franchise?  Technology can help us deliver results. Not only giving us visibility so we can take advantage from the supply chain aspect but also drill down to, “Where can we reduce waste in our restaurants?” and  “What do we need to analyze from a menu optimization standpoint?” Really harnessing all those components is what I would love to be able to do in a more responsive, fluid and thoughtful way.

SCS: Switching gears just a little bit, over your career - and you've had the benefit of having a lot of different perspectives with your background, what skills have helped you the most get to where you are now? And do you have any advice for people that would like to follow in your footsteps?

AMC: You know, I think my the most valuable skill that I have is flexibility.

Without that, I just don't think you could be successful in this industry and not just in supply chain but in this industry, because things move so quickly in our space that you have to be willing to move with it. And you have to be willing to explore new areas and understand things that you're not familiar with and think differently. That's not easy to do and it's not for everyone.

Also, I think the most important component that's helped me survive in this industry is having thick skin. You really must have that. If I were sensitive to every derogatory thing that was said, I wouldn't be here. You have to realize, especially in the franchise business, that no matter how good you are they're always asking, "What's next?” It's a difficult industry to be in.

You have to be able to take criticism as constructive feedback, even if it was not intended that way. You have to take it that way and think, well, how can I approach it differently in the future? So, flexibility is key.

For me, my advancement in the industry was never about a title. I was never title driven, that didn't really matter to me. What mattered to me most was just having a passion for the business. And honestly, I passed up many opportunities throughout my career to work for other brands - brands that I didn't believe in. My mantra is, if I won't eat in your restaurant then I won't work for you. I think that's good advice that I've actually given to people because if you make a jump for the money or the title, or if you don't have a passion for what you do or believe in what you're supporting, then I don't know that you can be truly successful. And I've seen people do that throughout the years and it didn't work out. I think you need to have that fire in your belly. I'm fortunate that every single company I've worked for owned brands I was passionate about. I love the brands. So that gave me an advantage because it meant something to me, and it still means something to me after over thirty years in the business.

SCS: That's good advice.

AMC: Today there are a lot of young people coming in and I love the different perspective. I think it's so important to listen to that perspective – welcome diversity of thought. Make sure you're speaking up for the right reasons and not just injecting something that doesn’t add value to the discussion. Always try to add value with your input and be mindful of what you're saying and, more importantly, why you’re saying it.  

SCS: Crystal ball time. Recognizing you're in a dynamic business where long-term could mean the end of the month, how do you see your job and what you're doing changing in the future? What do you see ahead in three to five years?

AMC: Short term I see our industry becoming more and more difficult. It's a highly competitive business and there's a tremendous amount of saturation. I do think we have to rely heavily on technology to make us effective.  

But we have to be willing to think differently and willing to challenge the status quo where we are now and work to find solutions. I think a lot of us are great at saying, "Oh, that's a problem". But not everyone is good at finding a solution. So that has to be my mindset, because I do want to be a part of the future and I want to help define and create it.

I think the landscape is going to change and in ten years it will look drastically different than it does today. For me it's all about helping my company and our brands succeed and helping my team excel. When your teams’ success means more than your own success, that's when you really become an effective leader.

So ultimately, I think we're going to be shifting a big paradigm of how we do business in this industry. But I also think we're due in the restaurant industry for a market correction, meaning there will be a lot of concepts that exist today that will not be here 5 to 10 years from now. The market will look drastically different. But for me, it's all about whatever we can do to be scalable, sustainable and relevant, because if we're not creating things that we can grow and expand our creative process then we'll fall behind very quickly.


Author: Supply Chain Scene