Updated COVID Company Response
Local first: IFD Foodservice Distributor launches campaign to encourage employees to shop local
FOR THE CHIPPEWA HERALD A local food provider is taking initiative to get their employees contributing to the local economy.
As part of a renewed focus on providing direct support to local businesses, IFD Foodservice Distributor in Eau Claire has introduced an incentive program that empowers employees to buy local.
IFD’s Support Local initiative connects its 200 employees and their families with local businesses. Starting July 19 as an ongoing initiative, IFD employees are encouraged to make purchases at foodservice establishments in the Chippewa Valley.
Here's how to support Chippewa Valley businesses
When they do so, Local Support cards are given to the server and restaurant owner in appreciation of their hospitality. By returning the card to The Market at IFD (formerly known as the IFD Warehouse Store), the owner and server are entered into weekly contests.
For the owner, the opportunity of a business credit and for the server, a prize drawing. Additionally, special offers in the store are given for those returning the card.
Jessie Braun, sales and marketing administrator for IFD Foodservice Distributor, said the campaign was created because IFD knows its employees are going to restaurants already, so they might as well support local businesses first when they do so.
“This is essentially being created to start a community group to support the Chippewa Valley,” Braun said. “We want to get our employees involved in giving back to the businesses that help support IFD. We know they’re going out to restaurants, so we are trying to encourage them to pick places that are local or independently owned first instead of national chain restaurants that are everywhere. The hope is that money will circulate back into the Chippewa Valley economy.”
The idea for the support local campaign stretches back more than a year, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit and changed the economic landscape of not just the United States, but the world at large.
“COVID-19 wasn’t a contributing factor, but this campaign is coming at a good time to combat the effects of it,” Braun said. “We’ve been thinking about this for over a year, so it’s just a coincidence. But everyone needs support right now.”
Going forward IFD Foodservice Distributor said the goal for the program is to see it grow and involve exclusive deals and prizes at different locations to cater to that businesses ideals and themes.
While the employees’ willingness to choose local first and the economic impact this will have on the Chippewa Valley economy are variables to the success of this campaign, Braun said the desired outcome is to see the community benefit from it in whatever form that takes.
“The best scenario is if everyone who works at IFD feels involved, important and significant,” Braun said. “They should feel their money, time and choices really matter to their community. If we happen to develop new relationships with restaurants, that’s just a great byproduct. This is all about getting our employees involved in our great community.”
Eau Claire (WQOW) - An Eau Claire company that supplies local restaurants is encouraging its employees to buy local through a new campaign.
In July, IFD Foodservice Distributor introduce the "Support Local Initiative."
When an IFD employee buys something from a food service establishment in the Chippewa Valley, they can give "local support cards" to the server and restaurant owner.
When the cards are returned to IFD, the restaurant or deli owner gets an opportunity for business credit, and the server is entered into a weekly gift contest. Plus, the IFD employee also has a chance to win prizes.
"We know a significant portion of our business is servicing the restaurant industry and we need to recognize how they've been impacted by the pandemic, so we thought this was a nice gesture to get our employees to recognize this and to get out in the community, in the Eau Claire region, the Chippewa Valley and help support our local economies," said Jim Kacvinsky, IFD vice president of sales and marketing.
IFD plans to partner with different businesses for the incentive program in the future.
EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - IFD Foodservice Distributor (IFD), which provides wholesale food options for bars, restaurants, schools, and local events and gatherings, is launching a Support Local initiative.
They’re giving Local Support cards to each of their 200 employees, who are encouraged to give them to restaurant owners and food servers where they make purchases.
The restaurant owners and servers can then return the card to the Market at IFD to be entered into a weekly contest. The owner could win business credit and the server could win the opportunity of a prize drawing. Special offers in the store are also given to those who return the Local Support cards.
This is part of IFD’s promise to think local, buy local, and be local.
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We are living through unprecedented times as the COVID-19 pandemic progresses. IFD has released an official response document that outlines the steps the company has taken to keep it's Customers, employees, and vendors safe and informed. Check it out below!
Eau Claire (WQOW) - A pair of Eau Claire companies are banding together to make sure truckers and their work aren't going unnoticed during the pandemic.
Johnny's Italian Steakhouse and Indianhead Foodservice Distributor started the "Meals for 18 Wheelers" program, to provide 800 meals per week to truck drivers at Marten Transportation in Eau Claire and Tomah.
Johnny's Steakhouse chef Shawn Wamsley said they wanted to show their appreciation for the essential workers who provide the products people need right now to stay safe and healthy.
Wamsley decided to provide unique and filling meals because he's noticed it can be hard for truckers to get food while on the road.
"Watching a gentleman leave his rig and have to walk through a drive-thru to get some sort of food product," said Wamsley. "So it was almost like an epiphany like a light bulb went off for us like, that's how we can give back."
Wamsley said the program is taking things week by week to account for any unforeseen new rules or safety regulations, but they plan to donate meals at least through the end of May.
New warehouse addition
This spring, IFD added to its Distribution Center and built a new warehouse addition that includes adding 9,000 square feet of freezer space and 3,000 square feet of cooler space.
The additional space will allow for product growth and more effective organization.
IFD focuses on service
Tom Gillett was wooed, but was not won over. That’s because Gillett — chairman and Chief Creative Officer of Indianhead Foodservice Distributor (IFD) in Eau Claire — believed he’d already won.
A major food distributor had contacted Gillett. Over lunch, the conversation was casual. Then the corporate representative revealed the reason for the meeting: a buyout offer. “He said he’d give us a pile of money and we could do whatever we want. I told him, ‘I’d do what I do for half of what I make now and that I was already doing what I want.’ I can only drive one car at a time and I can only wear one suit at a time. I still get my hair cut where I can get one free haircut with every 10 haircuts.”
For Gillett, selling the family business would mean losing the euphoria of collectively meeting challenges. “We got this big piece of business from a customer. It was so big it challenged every piece of our organization. Everyone stepped up and we did it in style, which means the customers’ expectations were met from the get-go,” he said. “It took about two months until everything was working smoothly. We had a celebration and I said, ‘Wherever you go and whatever you do, remember this. It’s a moment you can always point to.’”
Gillett’s employees share his excitement in meeting and mastering challenges. “People want to be part of something exciting. They will turn over their innate resistance to being led and allow people they trust to lead them. It won’t be without question, but the buttressing trust enables the collaboration.”
Gillett attributes that foundation of trust to IFD’s values and principles. “Our value system isn’t about what the leaders say, but what our values and principles say,” he said. “Values and principles aren’t capricious or arbitrary.” Much as Warren Buffet still lives in the modest Omaha home he bought for $31,500 in 1958, Gillett revels in the business of business rather than its perks. “In family businesses, you live below your means. You have to feed the goose first.
The people in the organization have to be taken care of.” That care begins on an employee’s first day. “On a hiree’s first day, I spend an hour or two talking about our history, values, principles and where we’re going. I inculcate them into the culture. I want them to feel like somebody cares about them and give them real reasons to care about the company,” Gillett said. “In a standard assessment, you’ll be asked about your pay, the working conditions, the benefits, and so on. We ask, ‘Do you feel like somebody cares about your development?’ The answer to that needs to be, ‘Yes, I do feel that.’ We’ll regularly ask, ‘Has somebody asked about your progress in the last 14 days?’ We need to know if we’re doing what needs to be done to best serve their growth. “People will commit to a company where they feel like the company cares about their development. The thing I find the most rewarding is in watching and being part of somebody’s development and I get to witness them surpassing their individual expectations.”
It’s that type of personal commitment that has allowed Indianhead Foodservice to surpass expectations year after year. “We do more business in a week than we did in all of 1977. When you look at that growth, you think that would have been inconceivable growth,” Gillett said.
To enable that growth, its workforce has increased tenfold to 175 since 1977. However, Indianhead conceives of ever-more growth into the next decade and beyond. “We have a business plan through 2043. We want to be financially viable and we have benchmarks for that,” Gillett said. “We want to grow the business about 8 percent per year, between 6 percent to 10 percent. We want to be the dominant distributor in the education marketplace. We want to retain family ownership and control.”
IFD distributes in Wisconsin and Minnesota, with approximately 1,500 customers. About half of its 325 food suppliers are in Wisconsin and Minnesota. “For us, local food means regional production and, fortunately, there’s a lot of food produced in our region. We lean towards local production. There’s less cost because you don’t have to transport it as far. We sell that concept to our customers,” Gillett said.
Indianhead Foodservice also delivers. “We do the deliveries. We do the warehousing, the IT, the marketing, and sales. Our average truck travels 300 miles roundtrip. We also transport about half of what we sell from the processors’ docks to ours.” IFD serves restaurants, taverns, health care facilities, correctional institutions, universities and other sectors.
Gillett and the company take these responsibilities seriously. “We’re responsible for feeding a lot of people who are bound to an institution or a hospital, jails, extended care, developmentally disabled, and so on. These people live there. That part of our business serves about 50,000 people a day. They can’t go home to eat. They’re residents of facilities,” Gillett said. “I want the people who work here to understand the importance of what we do. Those people depend upon us.”
Being a mid-sized company increases Indianhead Foodservice’s reliability. “We’re flexible and nimble. The gist of the company is we spell customer with a capital C. The signature on our payroll checks says, ‘Our Customers.’ We’ve driven that into the system and our staff. We take care of the customer. Sometimes we do things that might not seem reasonable in a large corporate context, but we’re never wrong if we take care of the customer,” Gillett said. “We’re not policy driven. We’re not overburdened by corporate policies that prevent us from serving our customers.
Big corporations operate with lots of policies. An example is that with a Fortune 500, if the order cutoff for shipment is 2:00, at 2:01 it will not be shipped. With us, it’s out the door.” To best serve its customers, IFD regularly assesses and reassesses the products it distributes. “We look at the quality of every item we sell. It’s not just whether it’s tasty or wholesome, but how will it perform for our customers. We analyze everything down to packaging. They fit into niches of quality stratifications and brand stratifications and regional stratifications. We open a lot of jars and jugs and taste them all,” Gillett said. “We look at the sales volume of each item and items we should perhaps consider. We look at ratios of ingredients, regional suppliers, cost, and so on. We do category reviews. We might do salad dressings or bacon or potato salad. We also access what’s currently selling, the items with a lot of movement and whether we should add them to our offerings.”
To control costs, Indianhead Foodservice also accesses various co-ops. It is part of a purchasing co-op, UniPro Foodservice, that negotiates the purchase price on IFD’s behalf. “We might buy a truckload of Heinz ketchup every two weeks, but they’ll buy 250 truckloads every two weeks. They give us a better buy,” Gillett said. “We’re a big believer in co-ops. We also have a produce co-op and two insurance co-ops, one for health insurance and one for liability. We insure each other and ourselves. We also do business with a credit union, which is a kind of co-op. We believe in people banding together with a common interest to create an advantage for us and others.”
Gillett is also a big believer in the cooperative power of his employees. “The greatest reward is the relationships I’ve developed with the people I’ve worked with. It’s the bond. We’re not hugging, but we feel like family. It’s an unspoken trust and camaraderie. They’d walk through fire for me and I’d do the same for them.” He also believes that great credit is due to people who have moved on. “I had people along the way who gave me a hand. Those mentors and advisors were the keys to our success. Some came and went, but they made all the difference. I try to pay that forward because I can’t pay them back. “If you don’t have those people, find them. We don’t do anything without help from somebody. We might like to take credit for it, but the credit is due to the generosity of others.”
The Paragon Award is given to a local business based on their impact on the community. Factors considered include: creation of new, quality job opportunities; completion of recent or current expansion of an existing facility; construction of a new facility or substantial investment in capital equipment; exhibition of impact on the community in terms of increasing the overall tax base; commitment to the continued education and training of their workforce; demonstration of support or involvement in a broad range of community economic development activities; innovations in the development of new technologies and products; and investment in the EDC.
ABOUT INDIANHEAD FOODSERCIVE DISTRIBUTOR:
Indianhead Foodservice Distributor (IFD) has been an independent, family-owned distributor of foodservices since 1947. IFD is dedicated to reducing the consumption of natural resources by partnering with regional manufacturers, and is an advocate for the sustainability of our local economy. In the past year, IFD has construction a new 30,715 sq. ft. dry warehouse addition for their North Hastings Place facility. With this addition, 15 new positions were created – bringing IFD’s full-time employee count up to 175.
Indianhead Foodservice Distributor actively supports economic development within the community by leasing their former location to an early-stage company for manufacturing and contributes to various local organizations such as: St. Francis Food Pantry, Community Table, Hope Gospel Mission, Bolton Refuge House, Beaver Creek Reserve, Beacon House, and the YMCA.
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