Founded in 1966, Sodexo is widely recognized as one of the world’s largest foodservice and facilities management businesses. However, the French multinational company has made huge strides in recent years to be known as much more than that, billing itself as a company that provides “integrated quality of life services to its clients.” Certainly, the term “quality of life” covers a wide spectrum; it can mean so many different things. What does Sodexo mean by it? In a nutshell, the company’s aim is to take care of everything that surrounds a client’s business so that the client can focus on its main service.

With more than 400,000 employees across 33,000 sites, Sodexo serves more than 75 million customers worldwide. It is the only company to integrate a complete offering of innovative services, based on more than 100 professions. As a global leader in its industry, it operates offices in more than 80 countries, including its Colombian branch, which was established 20 years ago. The Bogota-based office continues to thrive, particularly in the facilities management sector. 

Michael “Tony” Russo recalls a time when, as a child helping out in his father’s produce distribution business, he had collected 20 cases of asparagus from a supplier and brought them back to his family’s warehouse only to discover that one of the company’s drivers had already collected the same amount of the vegetable. After learning that his family was charged for only the first 20 cases collected, he worried about the consequences of holding onto the overage. 

“I thought that the supplier would believe we had taken 20 cases of asparagus from them,” he says. “I couldn’t sleep that night, and worried all night that I had done something that would tarnish my family’s name.”

Early the following morning, Russo returned the 20 cases to the supplier, who had not yet noted their absence and were surprised to see the young boy. Russo says he understood as a youngster the importance of honesty. Through his home and church, as well as the family business, he learned there was an expectation and a commitment to ethical and responsible conduct in all aspects of business.

Palmetto Foodservice President Peter Landskroener acknowledges the major challenges his company faces as an exporter in the food industry. “Right now, we’re eating a large dose of humble pie every day because the U.S. dollar is very strong, and when you’re selling expensive American beef to Europe and your dollar is 30 percent stronger against the Euro than it was 6 months ago, that makes a big difference,” he says. “Along with the strong dollar the fact is that the main commodity we sell worldwide is U.S. beef, and beef prices are at a record high levels and there’s no indication they’re going to come down any time soon.”

Those two main factors have led many of its foodservice distributors to reduce the amount of beef they’re purchasing from Palmetto. Poultry products exported by the Atlanta-based company are also challenged as a result of the avian influenza virus, which has led to many countries worldwide to close their doors to poultry imports altogether. The virus closely follows previous international concerns over Mad Cow disease, some of which still linger more than 12 years after the affliction first manifested. “It’s been tough, and we’re working a lot harder and maybe sleeping a little less at night, but that’s part of the business – we soldier on,” he adds. 

Forty years ago, The Nutrition Group began as a relatively small company that provided meals for summer camps, senior congregate dining programs and a few school districts in Pennsylvania. Today, the $123 million company provides on-site meal services to approximately 180 school districts, charter schools and private schools in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan and is branching out to other states.

The company has a presence in New Jersey and Florida, and plans to expand in those areas. It’s a competitive market”, says COO Jerry Moore. The education marketplace makes up about 80 percent of the business for The Nutrition Group, a regional foodservice company that frequently bids against national firms for school contracts, Moore says.

“With our team approach we’re more successful,” says Pam Harney, director of business development. “We focus on building partnerships with potential clients rather than impose a corporate presence. We listen to their needs and develop a plan.”

As a new venture for spirits industry veterans, branding, experiential marketing and consulting company FLUID prides itself on its entrepreneurial spirit. CEO Guillermo Rodriguez seeks out team members who embody that ideal and are willing to fill any role to help the company and its clients advance, or as the FLUID’s tag line touts, “Venture Forward.”

“No one here is above anything,” he says. “We encourage everyone to take calculated risks for our clients, even if it doesn’t always work out. You can’t be afraid to fail,” Rodriguez says. “People who are afraid to fail typically don’t fit into our culture. Our team knows the family is here to help them pick up the pieces, learn from the lesson and keep going.”

As chief procurement officer for one of the world’s largest independently owned catering companies, John Krebs utilized group purchasing organizations to assist sourcing of his company’s food and supplies. “The staff I had was never enough to get to all the products; there were always too many competing priorities to cover all the needs,” he says. “However, these group purchasing organizations (GPO’s) I relied on for purchasing had limitations.  They could bring an initial savings but never assisted in getting me to the next level.”

When he established his own (company), Axis Purchasing, in 2006, he was determined not to take a hands-off approach with his own clients. “I’ve found that other purchasing groups just put you on a portfolio, but don’t show you what to do with it,” says Krebs, Axis Purchasing’s CEO. “With us, you get someone who helps you out, not just a portfolio of good deals.”

Santucci Associates started business in 1959 as a nut and dried fruit broker, and formed the Specialty Food division in 1964. It introduced specialty foods and confectionery products to department stores such as Wanamakers, Strawbridge & Clothier, Gimbels, Hutzler’s, Hoschild Kohn’s, Thalhimers and Miller & Rhoades, along with German delis, cheese/gourmet shops, gift shops and upscale independent grocers. As times changed, and the department stores faded away, Santucci Associates began focusing on grocery chains through Specialty Food Distributors.  

“Today, it is primarily supermarkets through distributors with most of the old department stores and German delis gone,” Jerry Santucci says.   

Michael “Tony” Russo recalls a time when, as a child helping out in his father’s produce distribution business, he had collected 20 cases of asparagus from a supplier and brought them back to his family’s warehouse only to discover that one of the company’s drivers had already collected the same amount of the vegetable. After learning that his family was charged for only the first 20 cases collected, he worried about the consequences of holding onto the overage. 

“I thought that the supplier would believe we had taken 20 cases of asparagus from them,” he says. “I couldn’t sleep that night, and worried all night that I had done something that would tarnish my family’s name.”

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