June 2018 | Case Studies | Reader Profile

Tim Miller: Serving It Up Fresh, Fast, and Casual

Tags: Logistics, Careers, Supply Chain

Tim Miller is vice president of supply chain with Smashburger, a fast-casual burger restaurant. Based in Denver, Smashburger has more than 350 locations in 38 states and nine countries.

Responsibilities: Commodity management, relationships with suppliers and third-party distributors, contract negotiations, program management; item changes, price validations, and distributor service to the restaurants, including on-time delivery and fill rates.

Experience: Vice president, supply chain, Famous Brands International; director, distribution and logistics, Jack in the Box; director, supply chain, Qdoba; director, distribution, Einstein Noah Restaurant Group, Inc.; additional supply chain management positions with Burger King; Restaurant Supply Chain Solutions, LLC; Yum Brands; and PepsiCo.

Education: B.B.A., Transportation and Logistics, Iowa State University, 1993.


In 2017, our team at Smashburger focused on the cost of goods sold. We looked at every aspect of the products we purchased—from commodities, to recipes, to our supplier base. And we got creative.

For example, we looked at the tomatoes we use. We'd always chosen round tomatoes in the past, but after testing, decided to move to Roma tomatoes. They have a more consistent quality, tested better, and reduced costs.

In 2018, we're streamlining our supply chain and looking at the most effective way to get products to restaurants. Smashburger has a national footprint, and in markets where we don't have a lot of density, we have to get creative. In several regions, we implemented a hub-and-spoke model, where larger distribution centers acting as the hub support smaller ones. We'll continue to evaluate our system and implement this where it makes sense.

When I was at Qdoba, I championed a project in which we shifted from direct-store delivery of produce to consolidating deliveries through the main-line distributors that supplied most of the other food and paper items.

To make this happen, we assembled a cross-functional team with operations and quality assurance, as well as external players, including distributors, produce growers, and shippers. We laid out the objectives and strategy, tested the program, reviewed the feedback, and then rolled it out nationally.

The supply chain we put together improved food safety controls and resulted in more efficient distribution, fewer deliveries, and less complexity at the restaurants. For instance, we previously averaged four produce deliveries weekly to each restaurant. We eliminated all four, and delivered the produce along with the other groceries. We reduced overall spend and improved operations.

The reduction in deliveries meant fewer invoices and payments in accounting. It also allowed general managers at the restaurants to focus more on serving customers, because they had fewer interruptions from placing orders and accepting deliveries.

Up next at Smashburger, we're increasing our use of technology and data with our new business intelligence solution to refine our supply chain. We'll use it to evaluate, for example, how limited-time offers perform in different regions, and leverage that information to position inventory where it best supports demand.

I feel fortunate to have managed every aspect of different supply chains, from managing commodities to two-wheeling products through the back door of Pizza Hut, and every step in between. I went to work for PepsiCo out of college and found I like working for organizations that consumers know.

I was the kid who loved to read maps. I also have a captain's license and enjoy reading sailing charts. My friends joke that I never get lost.

The Big Questions

What words do you live by?

There's no "I" in team. Be humble. Respect others and work together.

What activities make you better at supply chain management and logistics?

I grew up around auto racing and am building a track car now. You have to be analytical and know how to develop and solve problems.

I've island-hopped in Greece and sailed the islands of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. In sailing, as in supply chain, you've got to read the charts so you can get from Point A to Point B. You also have to be prepared for any eventuality.

How would you describe your job to a five-year-old?

We make sure you get all the fun toys, foods, and snacks you want.

Who is your hero?

My grandfather. He survived when a German U-boat torpedoed his ship, the USS Dorchester, and continued his service in World War II. He was kind, caring, and giving.






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