Last week’s jobs report from the U.S. Labor Department brought the encouraging news that U.S. unemployment fell to 8.3 percent. The number itself is not great, but the fact that it’s moving in the right direction gives cause for optimism.
The report noted that the manufacturing sector added 50,000 jobs in January. Professional and business services added 70,000 jobs, and education and health services added 36,000 jobs.
The uptick in manufacturing jobs is encouraging since manufacturing has historically been the most profitable employment sector for vending and onsite foodservice.
But operators need to recognize the gain in manufacturing was overshadowed by that of professional and business services, continuing a long-term trend. Operators cannot afford to let up on the need to meet the more challenging needs of white collar customers who, by the nature of their employment, have more food and refreshment options.
Upon further examination, the recent Labor Department’s report indicates still bigger challenges for vending and onsite foodservice. Within the professional and business services sector, significant growth occurred in foodservices, which have added 487,000 jobs since February of 2010.
This means vending and onsite foodservice operators will continue to face stiff competition for their services. And for qualified employees.
Foodservice employment is regaining its pre-recession momentum, driven by more diverse consumer lifestyles. Fast food restaurants, convenience stores, specialty retailers, and more recently, food trucks, have all grown as consumers have adopted more mobile lifestyles. This is a change driven largely by a less manufacturing dominant economy.
These observations bring to mind a meeting I recently had with a young and successful vending operator in the Rust Belt. When this operator began his business single handedly in 1997, the market was dominated by the nationals and five large independents. Today, all five independents are gone.
During our meeting, I learned this operator spends a lot of time studying the local economy. He divides his customers by industry type to see how well his business is tracking local economic trends.
This operator took a hit in 2008, but since then, his business has been on an upward trend. In addition to studying the local economy, he surveys customers regularly, updates a business plan every year, pays employees a competitive wage, and meets regularly with employees to hear their feedback on customer satisfaction.
It seems he has succeeded where others have failed because he recognizes the need to adapt to change.