Your company’s social location: what is it —why does it matter?

If you took Sociology 101, you will remember that social location is a collection of an individual’s characteristics that place him or her in a particular group within society. The defining characteristics include gender, race, social class, age, religion, education and geographic location, among others.

Ideally, there is no judgment attached to social location. Unfortunately, this is not always true in present-day American society. Your social location may well be the difference between success and failure in your life and career.

Social location is a key to understanding what an individual brings to a relationship, whether it is work, leisure pursuits or personal. But the concept can be applied to your company, as well. What does your company bring to customer and supplier relationships? Do you help customers and other partners to understand your social location characteristics, or do they just have to guess?

Social location indicators for a company can include history, culture, values, service – both to customers and to the industry — business philosophy and trustworthiness. It’s all those things that a company brings to every business relationship.

We use social location every day

An individual can make a mark and be noticed positively in society by cultivating and emphasizing elements of his or her social location that are meaningful to peers. Politicians do this all the time, letting us know where they stand so we can judge their ability to fulfill the obligations of the job. Individuals do this in job interviews and, increasingly, on social media.

Tabloids make their money detailing the social location elements of celebrities and sports idols. This all changes when one of these icons breaks the code of his or her particular social location. Think Tiger Woods or Harvey Weinstein.

The same social downfall can happen to companies that betray their social location. Enron comes to mind.

Your company’s social location is important to your brand strategy. If you don’t have a good handle on your culture, values, philosophy, and so forth, how can you communicate your value to your supply-chain partners? It’s important to let them know exactly what you bring to the relationship table. Your social location counts! Capture it in writing and spread the word.

iFD PEOPLE: Ron Boyd, Ben E. Keith Foods (Retired)

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Ron Boyd recently retired after 36 years with Ben E. Keith Foods in Fort Worth, Texas. Ron was well-known and respected by all throughout his career in the industry.

“For nearly four decades, Ron has exemplified the ‘Special Spirit’ we have at Ben E. Keith,” says Mike Sweet, president of Ben E. Keith Foods“Through his inspiring leadership, he has fueled much of our expansion and enabled our evolution from a produce company to a broadline distributor. Ron will be missed, but his legacy will be felt every day. We wish him and his wife, Debbie, a happy and fruitful retirement.”

Here is Ron’s story:

My first job was as the ‘ice boy’ at a sporting goods outlet in Arkansas making 50 cents an hour. I had to be at work at 5 a.m. to get ice for the fishermen. That made me understand how important it was for me to go to college! I graduated from college in 1969 and immediately reported to active duty in the United States Army as a Quartermaster officer. I was stationed in Fort Lee, Va., to attend Quartermaster officer basic training then on to the food advisor/technician school. I spent time in Zweibrucken, Germany, and Da Nang, Vietnam.

Upon returning to the U.S., I got a job running a commissary and federal meat processing operation in Little Rock, Ark. I was fortunate to move on to work for Ben E. Keith Foods the next 36 years, serving as assistant general manager in Dallas, then GM in both Dallas and Fort Worth, then director of groceries , VP regional manager and, finally, completing my career as senior vice president of sales and marketing. I now plan to do more fishing, hunting, traveling with my wonderful wife and spoiling all seven of our grandchildren.

What are you most proud of in your career?
Being involved in the evolution of foodservice at Ben E. Keith Foods and watching our people and company thrive.

Who are your role models?
Alfredo Duarte, owner of Taxco Produce Dallas, Texas. Most thoughtful, considerate and generous person I know. Chef Charles Carroll, executive chef at River Oaks Country Club in Houston, for his leadership in mentoring young people. Developing people is a job for everybody at home and in business.

What books or other reading matter are on your bedside table right now?
Safari Times…I love Mother Nature at her finest.

How would you describe your leadership style?
Open to join in. I knew I was never the smartest guy in the room. The more input I could get, the more creative we became together.

What book has had the greatest impact on your leadership style?
“Leadership Lesson from the Chef— Taking Time to be Great,” by Chef Charles Carroll. Also, Brian Dodge’s “Becoming the Obvious Choice.”

What characteristic(s) do you admire most in others? Least?
Most — relentless energy and sense of urgency. Least — laziness or lack of enthusiasm.

What three people, living or dead, would you like to be marooned on a desert island with?
My wife Debbie, FDR and Robert Ruark

How would you describe yourself in one word?

What’s one dramatic change that you predict we’ll see in within the next 10 years?
Technology taking the dining-out experience to dramatically new levels in both food offerings and service. How and where spectacular food is made available.

What keeps you up at night?
Government regulations that make it hard for us to do business with and lawyers in general. At some point, common sense and doing the right thing need a bigger seat at the table.

Any thoughts on where the industry is headed?
I absolutely think the best is yet to come in foodservice. With technology at the fingertips of our DSRs, their opportunity to deepen their relationship with each customer can grow to exceptional heights. Remaining committed to exceptional, and I do mean exceptional, customer service remains paramount. Nothing will replace the value of a knowledgeable, committed, easy-to-do-business-with sales person who has an efficient, reliable, easy-to-do-business-with company supporting them.


iFD People: Mark Allen, IFDA


Mark Allen is president & CEO of the International Foodservice Distributors Association (IFDA), a role he has held for nearly 14 years. Earlier in his career, he was a sales rep for a Fortune 50 consumer packaged goods company. He called on wholesale grocers in the Mid-Atlantic and it was during this time that he developed an appreciation for the distribution business. Mark’s first jobs in foodservice occurred during high school. At various times, he was a busboy and dishwasher for a local seafood restaurant, a janitor at a Dunkin Donuts, and a delivery person for Domino’s Pizza.

What are you most proud of in your career?
I am most proud to be able to serve such a wonderful industry. I am humbled every day to be able to work with such a smart and talented group of people – from IFDA’s leadership and members to our staff. Being part of IFDA’s growth and progression has been a real career highlight.

When you think of icons in the industry, who comes to mind first?
I had the opportunity, early in my tenure, to work closely with a group of people who had a tremendous influence on the industry – and me. Tom Lankford, Mike Roach and Dan Gordon come to mind. Today I work with a group of industry leaders who are every bit as talented and are leading in an environment that is, one could argue, quite a bit more challenging than that of their predecessors.

Who are your role models?
My father is a pretty simple man but did a great job leading by example. By watching him, I learned the value of a hard day’s work and the absolute importance of honesty and integrity in everything you do. He also taught us from an early age to treat people with the utmost respect and dignity.

What books or other reading matter are on your bedside table right now?
I am actually reading three very different books right now: “Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works”, “Hillbilly Elegy” and “Killing the Rising Sun”.

If you could time travel to another point in history, when would it be?
Probably the late 1940s and the 1950s as it was an incredibly interesting point in time not just for the United States, but the world at large. The ramifications of WWII have had an enduring impact on who we are today as we continue to deal with many of the decisions that came out of the new world order. What an amazing generation.

What three people, living or dead, would you like to have dinner with?
My maternal grandfather passed away when I was 18. He was a huge influence in my life and I’d love to be able to spend time telling him what I am doing today, as he was in the food industry too. I would also love for my wife and three boys to meet him as I know he would be proud and am certain he would have a big impact on them as well.

How would you describe yourself in one word?

What’s one dramatic change that you predict we’ll see in within the next 10 years?
I think the nature of how we work will continue to evolve – maybe more so in the next few years. Foodservice distribution has not changed much from a labor standpoint and the issues around labor (and lack thereof) aren’t projected to get any easier. How can we meld labor with automation and assist the workforce to make the industry’s physical jobs easier, especially in light of an aging workforce? How can we make foodservice distribution more attractive to younger generations? Labor, talent and workforce issues will continue to be both a challenge and opportunity for us.

iFD highlights heritage, people and progress through our corporate history writing services. Our blog series iFD People profiles foodservice leaders, sales stars and others who have made, or are making, a mark on the industry.

Good Answers, Bad Answers

When a customer asks you, the sales rep, “Why your company?” what do you say?

“Because we’re better.” Bad answer.
“We try harder.” Bad answer.
“Because we’ve been meeting and solving customer challenges for 50 years.” Good answer.

Next question: “What kind of challenges?”
“Pricing issues.” Bad answer.
“Delivery minimums.” Bad answer.
“Helping to revamp menus to reflect customers’ brand promise and maximize profitability.” Good answer.

“How do you know how to do that?”
“We have years of experience and in-house expertise. Our company has been around for a long time. We’ve built our reputation on our ability to solve challenges and help our customers grow their businesses. Would you like to hear a little more about our story?” Good answer.

“Sure. Come back to my office so we can talk.”

Does your sales and marketing team have your story at their fingertips? It’s what differentiates you from your competitors – the only thing that truly does.

As founders and long-term employees move on, would there be anyone to chronicle the turning points, successes, failures and people stories at your company? Is there a written record? Not just a timeline or an “about us” paragraph on your website, but a complete, compelling story of your company’s roots, culture and growth and future promise told in a strategic, brand-savvy way?

It’s a great story, just waiting to be told. We’re ready to help.

Bucket List from Anonymous Company President

As they used to say, this came “over the transom.” Does anyone know what a transom is anymore? At any rate, here is one company president’s bucket list for 2018.

10. Lose 10 pounds

9. Improve the break room

8. Give more atta boys/girls for our sales team

7. Get engaged in some community projects

6. Read the three books that have been on my bedside table for six months

5. Seriously think about going to the gym more

4. Lose 10 pounds (I actually need to lose 20)

3. Profile our top performers

2.  Get creative with our social media

1.  Have the story of our company written by professionals

We love Nos. 3, 2 and 1. This president has his or her priorities straight. We just happen to know some professionals who could help.


iFD People: David Ellingson, Bargreen Ellingson

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David Ellingson is president of Bargreen Ellingson, a foodservice supply and restaurant design company founded in 1960 in Tacoma, Wash. Representing the third Ellingson generation to manage the company (the co-founding Bargreen family was bought out in the late 1990s), David joined the family firm in 2006 and was named president in January 2012, transitioning leadership from his father, Paul, and uncle, Rick, who grew the company into a premier regional E&S dealership. In 2016, Bargreen Ellingson sales exceeded $255 million and the company’s territory covered 10 western states, including Hawaii and Alaska, as well as portions of western Canada, from 22 locations. David’s excited about the growth, and says his biggest focus as Bargreen Ellingson’s leader is nurturing a strong company culture around an internal program called On Board. It focuses on nine critical founding values, which are intended to drive decision making from the boardroom to the warehouse. They are: Hire Smart; Respect; Teamwork; Use Good Judgement; Learn, Learn, Learn; Communication; Pursue Change; Ownership; and Hoopla (i.e., have fun!).

iFD What are you most proud of in your career?
The successes and growth of Bargreen Ellingson employees
Who are your role models?
My father and mother
What books or other reading matter are on your bedside table right now?
Lately, I have spent more time reading The Economist than anything else.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I don’t self-reflect well, but I think my personality was once described as irreverent. I try to be very supportive and believe people can grow with patience and gentle direction.
What characteristic(s) do you admire most in others? Least?
I admire patience and conversely can’t stand impatience and/or yelling (although I occasionally act that way myself).
What three people, living or dead, would you like to have dinner with? What would be on the menu?
Angela Merkel, Pope Francis and Dave Grohl. We’d have sushi.
What’s your favorite travel destination?
Probably home. I travel too much.
What’s one dramatic change that you predict we’ll see in within the next 10 years?
Self-driving cars and delivery trucks. I hope.
What keeps you up at night?
I worry about our customers’ profitability.


Are You an Industry Insider? Take Our Jargon Quiz to Find Out.

To be an insider in any industry is to speak the lingo. Foodservice is no exception.  From manufacturers to distributors to operators, the use of jargon abounds. It’s convenient. It provides a quicker way to communicate. Referring to an acronym is far more convenient than pronouncing all the consonants and vowels that it stands for.

But, what if you are not an insider? Industry terms and acronyms can be stumbling blocks to those who haven’t yet learned the lingo. This can be an unrecognized aspect of onboarding. We are here to help. We have put together a list of terms and acronyms that are commonly used every day in the foodservice arena.

How much of an industry insider are you? Take our quick jargon quiz to find out and then go to to find the correct definitions and our full “dictionary” of foodservice insider terms and acronyms.

Test Your Insider Status

Take our quick quiz to see how many of the terms and acronyms on the list below can you define?

  1. Agency
  2. CRM
  3. Cutting
  4. Daypart
  5. DSR
  6. FSMA
  7. GPO
  8. iFD
  9. LTL
  10. MOH
  11. Monkey dish
  12. OS&D
  13. RCA
  14. Re-Di
  15. WFF

Check your answers here. If you scored:

  • 15 — You’re a true industry insider!
  • 10-14 — You’re prepared to easily converse with industry colleagues.
  • 5-9 — You need to brush up on the lingo.
  • 1-4 — You’re either very new or haven’t been paying attention.

NOW, please let us know in a reply/comment (using box below) how you did, AND if you know of any key industry terms or acronyms we’ve missed in the full list on our site. We’ll make sure they get added.