Interview: Dennie Sandefer, Senior Director of Purchasing, Zaxby’s Franchising,
interviewed by Tu Ahn Pham, 2nd year MBA student at TCU
Tu Ahn Pham: Can
you tell us about your background and specifically about the journey to your
current role as a Senior Director of Purchasing of Zaxby's Franchising, Inc.?
Dennie Sandefer: I started
college with aspirations to be a veterinarian, but the competition for
acceptance into vet school was tough. The year I applied, there were 155 of us vying for 21 spots and when I didn’t
get accepted, a department head from my university convinced me to take an
alternate course with my education. As a result, I became the first female to
graduate with a degree in Poultry Science from Mississippi State.
I spent the first eight years of my career in the poultry industry before
accepting an opportunity at Popeye’s as a Poultry QA Auditor where I traveled
to poultry plants that supplied the restaurants. I later moved to Nashville and expanded my QA
responsibilities to include purchasing with another chain before accepting a
position in Purchasing/QA position with Bojangles’ in the mid 90’s. In 2006, I relocated to Atlanta to join the
purchasing team with Church’s and finally made my way here to Zaxby’s in
TAP: How did
your background (Poultry Science) facilitate your career?
DS: I never
realized how a foundation in the poultry industry could open up so many
opportunities in the restaurant industry. I think having a degree so relevant
in the foodservice business was advantageous for me.
TAP: Have you
studied any courses/certifications in Supply Chain Management? And how do you
develop the skills that you need for your career?
DS: I did take
courses in preparation for the CPM designation; however, I have been fortunate
to work with insightful leaders that helped guide and mentor me toward supply
TAP: I heard
that you have worked in the Q.A. area, distribution area, and purchasing area.
From your experience, would you mind explaining how these three areas relate to
DS: The adage “the
right product at the right place at the right time” comes to mind when I think
of the combined efforts of these three areas of responsibility. Visually for me,
it is like a three-legged stool that will not function properly if one of the
legs fails. Each of these areas relies
on the other for proper execution and completion. We have great team here that collaborates
daily to ensure products arrive at the restaurants in a timely manner and in
safe condition so the managers can focus on our guests.
TAP: Would you
please take me through an average day? What excites you most about the work you
do? What is the challenge (if any) in your job?
DS: One thing I have discovered in supply
chain is there usually isn’t an average day, but that is the very thing that
keeps it intriguing! We work closely with so many different departments, from
I.T. to Marketing, Culinary and Operations to name just a few. We interact with our suppliers to understand
their challenges and processes so we can collaborate to make it beneficial for
all involved. We problem solve on a
daily basis and rarely are there two issues that are the same. We get to be inquisitive and learn about new
products, systems, and programs regularly. We get to stare into our ‘crystal
ball’ and provide forecast models for future promotions or take positions on
commodities….And that’s just within the first two hours of the day!
TAP: How do you see the future of supply chain
management in the next 5 years? How do you and/or your company adapt to that
DS: Access to
reliable information is critical for the supply chain to function
efficiently. It is imperative we have
excellent communication, analytics and access to data between the supplier,
distributor and end user in order to make the best decisions for all involved. Technology
will continue to be front and center as guests gravitate toward third party
delivery, mobile ordering, loyalty programs, etc. Off-Premise food demands
could impact future sales and growth the next 5 years. Informed consumers will continue to seek craveable,
flavorful foods while demanding transparency into the food and beverage
ingredients. Distribution will become more challenging as drivers age and
regulations continue to shorten the hours a truck can travel. We will continue
to work with our suppliers and distribution network to develop strategies to
source, produce and distribute more efficiently.
TAP: What do you think makes a successful supply
DS: There are a
lot of hard skills that make the job more enjoyable and make positive impacts on
profitability. However, in my opinion, the soft skills will help accelerate
your career. Skills such as being someone who is willing to listen, to be
inquisitive and demonstrate confidence in uncertain situations and being a
person who can balance risk and reward. Also,
showing compassion, being honorable and ethical are important.
TAP: Do you
have any advice for supply chain students who want to start their careers in
supply chain management and/or in the restaurant industry you are working in?
DS: Go for it,
talk to as many professionals in the industry as you can to get their advice
and insight to this industry. Work
during summers and semester breaks to get exposure to ensure this is the right
path for you. It can be an extremely rewarding career.