You have turned your former competitor into a customer.
Now, two of your factories have just moved to Mexico, and your cafeteria and vending base have been slashed by a third. You need new sources of income to keep your employees working. At this point, many operators just give up and start laying people off and close the commissary.
The day the commissary closes is the day that the heart goes out of your business. Your control of those sandwiches belongs to a commercial kitchen hundreds of miles away. Your freshness appeal, the look of your product that you and your customers were satisfied with, are replaced by a product that no longer has your name on it.
You need to see the possibilities
If you just sit there and lament the fact that you are defeated by those businesses that are out of your control, you have lost your business edge. But there are answers to your problem out there; just take your blinders off and look outside of your traditional customer base. Here is an example of what you can do.
You joined the chamber of commerce because as a responsible member of your business community, you wanted to keep on top of everything happening around you.
You discover the local hospital that has been using its kitchens in their off hours to run a meals-on-wheels program and the demand for meals in the county has doubled, due to the economic situation in the area, like the closing of the facilities that you used to service. The hospital needs more food production space.
There are hundreds of meals-on-wheels agencies in this country. Some are federally sponsored and some are local or church sponsored. Some use basic kitchens while others are using a specialty kitchen set up for meals-on-wheels.
Whatever type of kitchen being used, the demand is certainly growing throughout the country as the baby-boomers age.
The demand for commissaries is growing
For years, this industry has been dominated by one manufacturer who supplies lidding equipment as a lease, or lease-to-own arrangement. While the agency providing the service might be non-profit, the food production requires equipment that is provided to the agency on a for-profit basis.
Your commissary equipment is actually similar to that manufacturer's machines, and the containers that you already use for your vending meals are quite similar to that manufacturer's as well.
Your commissary does not operate past 9 o'clock in the morning, so you certainly have your equipment available, and you have the personnel to man your machines. You may even have to employ a few more townsfolk to run them.
Examine government and charity programs
You can use your commissary to produce meals-on-wheels in the early afternoon. Volunteers from the agency can deliver them to their clients. You get paid, and your employees get paid. Those who need food will get food, and you and your vending company become a more valuable member of the community. Your commissary remains the heart of your organization.
There are still more opportunities to consider. You could become a "packer processor" for specialty carryout items at restaurants in town. Just talk to people and find out what they need, and supply it. Make phone calls wherever there is an opportunity for takeout food.
You could make "pepper and egg" for the grocery stores seasonally and deliver them on your route trucks, or prepackaged slices of pie for patrons to take home from the restaurant. As your routes get bigger, there are locations you cannot get to for two weeks. There is now a simpler solution.
There are now available tabletop modified atmosphere machines for under $20,000 in the U.S. that could be used for those routes that you do not want to visit every three days. You could use these machines for those routes only, and use your traditional machines everywhere else.