August 2006 | Case Studies | Reader Profile

Keith Anderkin: Keeping Fast Food Fast

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When you see an ad for a limited-time offer on a special sandwich at Arby's, it means Keith Anderkin and his team have been busy.

Anderkin is vice president of procurement for ARCOP, the Atlanta-based nonprofit purchasing and distribution co-op that serves Arby's franchisees, and he oversees procurement of nearly all the food and packaging found in an Arby's restaurant.

Each time the corporation plans a special promotion, "we have to bring in new products and make sure we avoid inventory obsolescence," Anderkin explains.

"The automobile industry promotes a new model once a year, or once every three years. We do a new promotion about every four weeks," Anderkin says. "We spend a lot of time and resources on promotional efforts, making sure we're not left with product at the end of the event."

Although he joined ARCOP just this year, Anderkin is no stranger to the restaurant business. "I started in the food service industry by busing tables in college," he says.

Later, an internship with Long John Silver's parent company led him to a post-graduation job performing financial analysis and forecasting for the restaurant chain. Anderkin enjoyed finance, but says he is happy an offer from that company's supply chain group nudged him onto a different career path.

Supply chain management calls for many of the same abilities as finance, "plus other skill sets, including working and negotiating with people," he says.

Anderkin's people skills came in handy in 2000 when the food service distributor that served Long John Silver's entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy and stopped paying its vendors.

For Anderkin, this crisis confirmed his belief that cultivating close relationships with suppliers is vital.

"It helped in this situation that we were able to get on the phone with the right contacts within the supplier community and make sure they were still willing to sell us product and keep our restaurants supplied," he says. "Building that level of trust takes a lot of time and effort."

At ARCOP, Anderkin oversees the procurement department's strategic direction, putting in place short- and long-term plans by product category.

"I spend a lot of time interacting with Arby's corporate team, sitting in on marketing meetings," he says. "Arby's is always looking for new products and new initiatives, and acting as a liaison for the marketing group is a big part of my role."

One of Anderkin's goals at ARCOP is to work with his counterpart on the distribution side to increase the company's freight transportation efficiency.

In the past, ARCOP has relied too heavily on suppliers to determine how to move its goods. Instead, it needs to look across multiple

"I hate to say it, but the restaurant industry has been negligent in analyzing freight and logistics and trying to determine the best way to move products," Anderkin says.

To help accomplish that goal, ARCOP recently hired a third-party logistics firm. "The savings it has identified for us has already made up for what we're paying the 3PL," he says.

The Big Questions

What do you do when you're not at work?

I have a power boat, which I love to take to the lake. I also like to golf. I enjoy spending time with my family, and we're involved in our church.

Ideal dinner companion?

Billy Graham. I admire his leadership, his faith, and his integrity—I'd really like to pick his brain.

What's in your briefcase?

My iPod, checkbook, map, sunglasses, business cards, and when I'm not in the office, my laptop. I also carry a folder with documents I can catch up on when I'm traveling.

If you didn't work in supply chain management, what would be your dream job?

Professional golfer—but I'm not very good. Maybe I could be Tiger Woods' caddy?

What's your idea of a successful day on the job?

Any time our restaurants have the items they need to effectively serve our customers, I can say it has been a good day.

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