Despite progress, there is still not enough barcode use across the industry to achieve real supply chain efficiencies.
Apply Pressure, Not Additional Labels
The key to expanding barcode adoption in food service is for distributors and operators to put pressure on their suppliers to use barcodes. That pressure has been very successful for Hot Stuff Foods, Sioux Falls, SD, a franchisor of several branded foodservice concepts, including Hot Stuff Pizza, Mean Gene's Burgers, Eddie Peppers and Smash Hit Subs. Hot Stuff officials estimate that only about 7 percent to 10 percent of the 1,500-1,800 SKUs it receives comes in without barcoding, about half of what most other distributors report.
"We've really been working with our suppliers to get it fixed," says Anita Jorgensen, director of purchasing at Hot Stuff Foods. "We work with about 150 suppliers, and we're working to make sure that they're all putting barcodes on. We have to make sure that everything's coming in with them and that they can be universally read by everyone's systems that we deal with."
Most of Hot Stuff's customers are convenience stores that rely heavily on barcodes through to the point of sale. "If there is no barcode, they do not have to accept it from us," says Jorgensen.
"We hope product is already set up with the standard barcode," adds Hot Stuff's barcoding expert, Stacie Anderson. "Everyone will be on that standard sooner or later, and we want to be proactive."
Hot Stuff and its customers, though, are unique in many ways. "I think there's been a lack of distributors pushing for compliance. We need distributors and operators pushing for it," says Susan Boyme, a product marketing specialist at Retalix. "And if distributors are not getting pressure from their operators, they will not put pressure on their suppliers to do it."
Foodservice operators, especially multi-unit chain restaurants, are critical, she says, "because they need to track not only sales but also contracts and rebates."
"Chain restaurant operators are beginning to recognize the benefits of using standard product identification and barcodes to improve operational efficiency," says Ken Fowle, director of supply chain management at Darden Restaurants, Orlando, FL, which owns the Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Bahama Breeze and Smokey Bones chains. "A driving issue for restaurants in the future will be to use barcodes to ensure fail-safe traceability of foodservice products."