Never say never, they say, but foodservice and dispensed beverages are two product categories that might never be the same post-COVID-19.

Looking at 2022 and beyond, these categories have undergone foundational shifts that see no sign of reversing, be that for reasons of efficiency, customer satisfaction or both, talks with finalists for CSP’s 2022 Category Manager of the Year Awards reveal.

“You have to surround yourself with vendors that have contingency plans and/or support yourself with more than one vendor on a product you carry,” he says. “We like to try to keep ourselves set up with a contingency plan in case one of the vendors cannot supply us.”

Ben Lucky took the adage of being prepared one step further, saying COVID’s most challenging aspect, supply-chain issues, forced him to be as creative as possible right in the kitchen.

“When everybody’s up against the wall trying to do something with the same products, you have to be creative with your ingredients, and perhaps that means if you can’t get a particular ingredient—we couldn’t get sausage for a while, steak, even hot dogs and certain breads—you have to be willing to maneuver and pivot,” says Lucky, senior category manager, foodservice, for Wills Group-owned Dash In stores, La Plata, Md. “Then, since everybody’s using the same smaller pool of foods to choose from, you have to be creative in adding seasonings, spices, sauces and so forth.”

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