Executive Spotlight: Ami Lindsay, SVP of Supply Chain, Capriotti's Sandwich Shop and Wing Zone

Professional Development

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

AL:   I started in food when I was 17 and spent 5 years in distribution. The next 10 years were outside the food industry but eventually, I went back and spent 5 years with SYGMA. From distribution, I transitioned to the restaurant/franchisor supply chain side with Papa Murphy’s and was there for 12 years. In 2010 I moved to Las Vegas to join Capriotti's. I loved Capriotti’s and was not looking for a job but my heart was in Texas and I wanted to live there. Mark Cuban happened to know somebody, who knew somebody, who knew me and I ended up moving to Dallas to work for Mark on a small pizza chain that he owned at the time. Mark only had the restaurant for about a year before he sold it - I don’t think he thought food was very fun, and it definitely did not move fast enough for him. I stayed with him for another two years working as a business advisor for some of his other investments (Shark Tank). There was not really enough work to keep me busy and I left Mark to get back into food and took a position with a multi-chain restaurant group. In late 2015 Capriotti’s called and it was a perfect fit for me to return. I was able to work with a company I loved and stay in Texas.

SCS:  Are there any initiatives you’re overseeing right now you can share with us?

AL:  We bought a wing concept at the end of December. The major initiative has been onboarding the supply chain for the new concept and doing a distribution transition. Both of these have been consuming and take up large amounts of time and team resources. Chicken is a tough market to be in right now.

SCS:  COVID – how were you impacted in supply chain? What did you have in place that really helped?  What are you seeing? How has your job changed? What’s next?

AL:  When the US shut down, the reverberations throughout the supply chain were extreme. The distribution system was brought to its knees and it took them about 10 weeks to start to recover and be able to supply their customers that were still functioning and doing well. I spent those 10 weeks primarily managing their inventory, instructing them on PO’s that needed to be placed.  They were paralyzed. As a concept, we had invested in delivery and had that fully in place and functioning prior to COVID, so there was no pivot necessary for us in that area. Our products deliver very well, so after the initial first two weeks of the lockdown, we were off to the races and have not looked back. 

I believe the primary thing that I had in place and that was most beneficial was my relationships, both with my most important manufacturers and with my distributors. These relationships got us through some pretty rough days.

One of the ways that things have changed is those common items that have never seen real challenges are now scarce and hard to get, items like paper bags, plastic, or form containers. Packaging has become a much bigger and more time-consuming issue than it was pre-covid. 

What’s next? I thought the supply chain was bad during COVID, but we are now living in the wild wild west, and every day is like the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.  Only time will tell.

SC:  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?

AL:  We have not used a lot of technology in our supply chain department.  Our first real foyer into this is with Arrowstream to give us much better and real-time visibility into our inventories with our distributors.  Also looking forward to the benefits from their commodity intelligence and logistics/freight analytical capabilities.

SCS:  What skills have helped you the most get to where you are now? Do you have any advice for people that would like to follow in your footsteps?

AL:  Supply Chain is ALL about relationships, making them, and keeping them. For all the size of this industry, it is still small. Be conscious of how you treat people because just about everyone will one day be either your boss or your customer.  I see nothing I do as more important than creating and keeping these relationships. The second thing to relationships is being creative at solutions.  Supply Chain is never the same and you need to be able to think and see creative possibilities for problem resolution.

My advice is to be kind, build solid relationships as you will need to call on those relationships for help.  Know you will at times work long hours and not normal hours - supply chain is always moving, and rarely smooth.  My daughter and my son-in-law have both followed me into the food business, in produce procurement.  I often wonder if I did them any favors.

SCS:  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?

AL:  In my 30 plus years in this industry, I have never seen conditions like we are seeing right now.  I have never seen an environment where the issues and concerns are coming from every corner of the supply chain.  Huge price increases; labor issues that are being experienced by all manufacturers, distributors, and restaurants. Major driver shortages causing inbound and outbound delivery issues as well as soaring freight costs.

I believe the short term is going to be trying to manage this current difficult environment.  Many experts feel that this is likely to go to the end of 2022 and possibly into 2023. I feel that over the next 5 years many of us (Supply Chain Executives) will be working to create processes in our supply chains that mitigate the impacts of the current shortages, soaring costs, and any possible future shutdowns.  In my opinion, what we have seen with COVID and the current environment have changed how we will manage a supply chain going forward.

Author: Supply Chain Scene