Kristi Kingery

July 10th Interview: Kristi Kingery, Vice President of Supply Chain, Tropical Smoothie Café, LLC. Kristi was interviewed via email by Ankit Agarwal, 1st year MBA student at TCU.

AA: Can you tell us about your background, and specifically about the journey to your current role as Vice President of Supply Chain with Tropical Smoothie Cafe?

KK: The journey started at a real estate law firm where I began as a receptionist.  After about seven years, multiple positions, and a lot of hard work, I earned a position as a Department Manager where I built a new department and hired my first team.  Once I completed that initiative I was ready for another challenge!  Through a recruiter, I was offered a position at ARCOP, Arby’s Supply Chain Cooperative, as a Buyer.    This is where I realized my interest and passion for supply chain.  I worked for ARCOP for nearly seven years and was able to earn several positions with increasing levels of responsibility.  I was a Director of Procurement when I departed ARCOP and moved to Tropical Smoothie Café. 

AA: What excites you most about the work you do?

KK: Every day is different!  You never quite know what to expect when you walk through the door – A product shortage? A recall? A natural disaster? No two days are ever the same which keeps this career exciting, challenging and invigorating.  

AA: What sort of trends do you foresee in supply chain management for 2017 and beyond?

KK: Data, data, data.  The industry is extremely focused on finding new ways to harness data and leverage that power to strengthen its supply chain.  A large part of this trend is really focused around data visibility – how to create a clear pipeline of data between suppliers, distributors and operators.

AA: What are the challenges associated with fresh ingredients and how does the company mitigate them?

KK: When most companies think of challenges surrounding fresh ingredients, they consider shelf life and quality concerns.  These are certainly characteristics that we contemplate, but we spend more time focusing on what we believe is the even bigger challenge: food safety.  We utilize fresh, uncooked ingredients in many of our smoothies because we believe this creates the highest quality products for our consumers.  We allocate considerable resources to ensure we are sourcing the safest possible products as well as handling them appropriately within our operation.

AA: How does Tropical Smoothie Cafe maintain the same quality of products and services between different franchises?

KK: Maintaining product standards across all units is a challenge for all franchisors.  We’ve found that constant communication, across many different outlets, has led to our success.  For example, we ship preprinted materials and guides directly to cafes, host many webinars, organize conference calls, support a company intranet and send weekly brand communications via email.  However, the backbone of these resources is our excellent Field Operations team who always ensure that all initiatives are being executed properly.

AA: Are there any plans for Tropical Smoothie to go global?

KK: We certainly have discussions around global growth, but no solid plans at the moment.  We’ve just opened our 600th café in the US and feel like there’s plenty of opportunity for us to continue our rapid growth within the US before moving into international development.

AA: Any advice for supply chain students who want to start their careers in the food service industry?

KK: This industry is all about building relationships.  It’s a very tight-knit community of individuals who value ethical information sharing – even between brand competitors!  So, for advice I will default to one of my mother’s favorite clichés: “Don’t step on anyone on your way up the ladder because you will meet them on your way down.”

Also, be sure to monitor this site for job opportunities in foodservice supply chains.

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