Executive Spotlight: Kyle Lindelof, Vice President of Food and Beverage, Brinker International
SCS: Tell us about how you got started in the business.
KL: My career began in retail grocery. During college, I interned at a grocery store then worked in the summers at a grocery distributor in Kansas City. Following graduation, I accepted a supervisor position managing a union workforce at Associated Wholesale Grocers. Being a supervisor opened my eyes to what management was all about which is building relationships. While in the warehouse, I worked in multiple departments including inbound freight, order filling and transportation. Upon earning my master's degree, I was promoted to the purchasing department as a Buyer for deli and bakery. I soon discovered I had a passion for procurement. My journey to foodservice occurred when David Parsley created a supply chain team at Applebee’s. I started as a Purchasing Agent buying dairy and bakery. Over the next few years, I managed multiple categories and later began to lead category managers. During my tenure at Applebee’s, I was a part of the formation of Centralized Supply Chain Services, the co-op for Applebee’s and IHOP. David moved to Brinker International as Senior Vice President of Supply Chain Management and formed a new supply chain team. I had the opportunity to join Brinker and build this team under David’s leadership. I've had a couple mentors through my career and David Parsley obviously was one of them and it's interesting enough, when David left, Charlie Lousignont came aboard to replace him, and I had worked with him at Applebee's and he was a mentor of mine as well. So, it was great to have worked for a couple of people that I already knew and understood what I was getting myself into when I came here.
SCS: Would you say having those mentor relationships were instrumental to how your career developed?
KL: Definitely! Throughout my career, mentors provided me with strategic guidance. I am thankful to have worked for both David and Charlie at multiple stops for almost two decades. I have had multiple mentor relationships over my career allowing me to learn and grow, expanding my knowledge but most of all creating important relationships.
SCS: What's your advice for people who are with a company they'd like to stay at, but want to advance and not have to leave the company to do it?
KL: Advancement is a lot about building relationships within your company and having advocates. Not just in supply chain, but also in operations, culinary and marketing. I came in as a senior director. There were multiple people that came in at the same time. David brought the nucleus of his new leadership team from CSCS to Brinker. We all had the same dilemma of what is our next step. My next step was building relationships within the company. Something as simple as moving from a private gym to the company gym. This provided me with the opportunity of meeting new people and working out with others, getting to know them on a personal level. That was the path that I took in building relationships. Seeing people every morning, if they had a question to ask, I was there. If I did not know the answer, I would find out and get back to them. But it was building those relationships with people within the company so when the time comes for a promotion, they were 100% aligned and felt like, "Hey, I know this guy and he knows what he's talking about."
SCS: Is that a skill that you have naturally as a nice guy from the Midwest or did you have to work on being able to do that in a work setting?
KL: I am an introvert who is comfortable in my inner circle. I had to make a conscious effort every day to make connections with others and learn from them. In my position, I must be knowledgeable about a vast array of products and projects. If I do not know the answer, I must surround myself with people who do. Knowledge of the brand is a key to success.
SCS: What kind of advice do you have for early stage supply chain professionals?
KL: It’s a combination of building relationships and gaining knowledge of the products. Your goal is to be the expert in your job, like a category manager for example. First, know your specification and exactly what you are buying. If given the opportunity, go take a plant tour and watch a production run. You will gain a better understanding of the ingredients, how it is processed and how it is shipped.
SCS: How have the last few years impacted you in your role? What worked and what’s different?
KL: It came down to having people in place and surrounding yourself with talent. When COVID-19 hit, things shut down and started back up fast for us. We had the people in place and really engaged team members. At the time we were working virtually and everyone was asking how they could help. Several cross-functional teams came together to get us right back up and running. I will not say it was seamless but it felt so initially, especially compared to the way it has been the last few years. Keeping continuity has been an “all hands on deck” approach utilizing the entire supply chain team to maintain continuity of supply. Transportation had been chaotic. At times we had to use third party logistics to help us get product delivered when suppliers could not get it done due to labor constraints. I would also say the team had to use a different muscle to look around the corner as unexpected things would present themselves. The team began asking a whole new set of questions to make sure our suppliers had enough raw materials, even helping them find alternate sources. Who would ever think starches and citric acids would be an issue?
SCS: How are you managing uncertainty? How are you planning in this environment?
KL: We have systems that help us from sourcing to procuring our products. Additionally, there are some in-house systems that we use but we also use third party analysts to help us monitor markets and build out forecasts. We have a highly tenured team that does a great job of asking the right questions and finding the best solutions. We have learned over the last few years that suppliers need additional time to successfully support our initiatives.
SCS: How do you see things moving forward?
KL: Supply chain will face similar challenges to what we encountered over the past few years. Inflation, labor issues and drought will continue to be major obstacles. Brinker has a philosophy of “Work Hard, Play Hard” and we are doing it! This team enjoys working together and finding solutions for future challenges.