Executive Spotlight: Pete Carantza, Director of Supply Chain Services, Firehouse Subs


Executive Spotlight: Pete Carantza, Director of Supply Chain Services, Firehouse Subs

Interview conducted by Supply Chain Scene, January, 2020


Supply Chain Scene: Tell us about your background and other roles that you have had in your career that have led to where you are now.

Pete Carantza:  I’ve actually been in the food service industry for forty-two years. I worked for an independent food service distributor for about two years and then worked for Sysco for thirty-one years for a total of 33 years, in senior management or executive management positions, including roughly more than half of these years on the procurement management side running purchasing departments. I then spent three years with a supplier as Director of Sales and then moved back to Jacksonville to work at Firehouse Subs where I've been for the last six years.

SCS:  Can you share with us your high-level primary responsibilities and initiatives that you directly oversee at Firehouse Subs?

PC:  The basic components of my job are that I manage Supply Chain associates and I negotiate and administrate contract pricing with our suppliers for the products used in the restaurants. I also manage the distribution network in the US for Firehouse Subs.

The big project that I began last year and is currently in full swing this year is the complete changeover of the distributor network in the United States for Firehouse Subs restaurants.  We're moving away from our current longtime distributor partner in a mutual agreement. I've been finding qualified distributors and piecing the puzzle together to make sure that we're covered throughout the 49 states (not including Hawaii).

SCS:  How long will that take? Will it be an extended period of a couple of years or do you hope to be finished this year?

PC:  It started last year. We made a couple of distributor changes early on but it's really gotten hot and heavy, so to speak, since the fall of 2019. We're in a lot of different transitional stages now with distribution agreements; we'll have this project completed by the end of 2020.

SCS: Now, is that technology based? Because my next question is about technology in your role and where developments in future technology are moving in procurement.

PC:  Actually, the whole distributor change-over is NOT technology based. It's just the old- fashioned way of finding distributors and manually mapping out the country, making sure that the distributors’ geographic distribution areas cover where the restaurants are, assuring there aren’t any coverage gaps.

So really, as far as what I do, my technology use is pretty limited. We do use ArrowStream which is our data mining partner. All of our distributors feed information through ArrowStream that we have access to with regards to purchase orders and inventories. We store contract documents there as well. We can pull a full array of product information from what's entered into ArrowStream.

SCS: What steps do you personally take to stay up to date and make sure Firehouse is not falling behind industry standards?

PC:  Well, our company itself has a lot of technological uses with various programs and systems at the restaurants, which is not something I get involved in.

As far as what we're doing to make sure we stay up to date with the industry, Supply Chain Services supports our product development department by making sure that they have accessibility to new products that hit the market along with suppliers that could possibly assist with new ideas for menu development. We make sure that they have the supplier contact information. 

Firehouse Subs Supply Chain Services has a good, solid group of team members who have distributor backgrounds as well as some other industry backgrounds. We're all pretty adept at dealing with suppliers and distributors because we have that experience. 

We're not really using any third-party purchasing systems because we don't actually purchase for our restaurants. Rather, we negotiate pricing and qualify the food and non-food products that are to be used by the restaurants.

SCS: So, it sounds like you are pretty relationship-centric.

PC:  Absolutely. And there's no technology that can replace that.

SCS: What skills have really helped you the most advance in your career and what advice do you have for others looking to advance?

PC:  I would say a lot of the skills that I have are innate and they've been derived from more than four decades of foodservice experience.

I've had the good fortune to work in most of the links of the foodservice supply chain, from the distributor to the supplier and now with the end user. I would say currently a lot of what I do is by intuition. When you've been around as long as I have you can kind of sense things that aren't right or that need to be done.

I would say gaining experience is a huge thing for those looking to advance. The advice I would have for new people in the business is to listen and learn, beginning when you're first starting out because there is an awful lot to learn and there's a lot of experience that you'll need to get in order to do your job well.

We always like to have our younger associates who come to us and ask what they should do, instead come to us and say, “here's the situation and here's what I suggest we do”. That helps us know that they are learning to be decision-makers, are on the right track in their thinking and maybe just need a little help thinking through the problem and determining he solution. In a lot of cases, they've got the right answer already and they're just looking for confirmation.

I would also say, pay great attention to detail in everything you do. You are dealing with a lot of money, and it’s especially when you deal with franchisees as you're dealing with their money. It's important that you cover all bases and make sure whatever you do, that you've done the best deal that you can and you follow everything through the processes for the best chance for success.

Throughout my years, I've learned from a lot of people. But I think the biggest thing that I learned in this business is to treat everyone with respect. Understand that everybody has a job to do for their company and they have a family or themselves to support so, just treat everybody respectfully. You don't have to agree with everybody on everything, but understand where they're coming from and don't take it personal. People are more motivated to work with you when you treat them respectfully and come up with the best solution for both ends of the partnership.

SCS:  How do you see your job or your industry changing in the future?

PC:  I think the biggest thing that I see really changing in our industry is the consolidation involved. Not only with the various brands, with investment groups buying brands or one group buying another, just the overall consolidation; also, on the supplier side which lessens some of the choices or opportunities you have for a variety of suppliers.

Probably the biggest consolidation area of concern for us is with distributors and the amount of capacity that has shrunk through buyouts and through closures. There is some warehouse expansion by a few distributors, but in most cases distributors are not increasing warehouse capacity.

The actual overall capacity of distributors has shrunk to the point where I'd now call it a seller's market if you're a distributor.

Throughout my years when I worked in foodservice distribution management, it used to be you chased after a lot of business; customers had several choices on who to appoint as a distributor(s). But I can tell you with the distribution network exercise that I've been going through, you've got to partner with distributors who run good operations and who can service the restaurants’ needs. And you’ve got to work within their parameters and their capacity restraints to get the best overall results for your company. That includes the number of spec products that you're going to insist they stock and what geographic areas they have the capacity to service.

You have to work within the distributors’ parameters now because they are at the point where they have a lot of brands coming to them to do their distribution; the distributors actually have their choice now with what customers they choose to service. That's probably the big change I see in the present and I think will continue into the future.


Author: Supply Chain Scene