Leslie Dean: Serving Up FroYo Mojo
Leslie Dean is senior director, supply chain at Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt in Encino, Calif. She has held that position since 2013.
Responsibilities: Identifying suppliers and negotiating contracts; defining product specifications for proprietary goods; supporting the marketing team in product development; managing third-party distribution relationships.
Experience: Director of purchasing/distribution, general manager international operations, quality assurance, Mrs. Fields Famous Brands; director of purchasing and distribution, Sonic Drive-In.
Education: B.S. social science, focus on international relations and tourism, minors in Spanish and geography, Chico State University, 1992.
In the 18 months since I joined Menchie’s, the company added about 100 locations, for a total of more than 350 stores worldwide. Because of our aggressive growth strategy—2,000 locations by 2020—my team’s biggest mandate is to revamp our entire distribution system. We need a network that will efficiently get product to existing stores and provide excellent service to new areas, including hard-to-reach locations, as we expand.
Menchie’s works with third-party distributors to serve franchisees in specific geographic regions. We negotiate contracts with the companies that make our products—from yogurt and toppings to promotional items and branded apparel. Our distributors buy those products, hold them in their warehouses, and fill orders from franchisees. Each distributor provides a one-stop shop for everything needed to run a Menchie’s location.
Along with managing the network that serves franchisees, my group provides support to internal, cross-functional teams. For example, if the franchise development group has an opportunity to expand our business anywhere in the world, we make sure those new locations have access to all the goods and services they require.
And when the marketing group has a new idea to drive sales, we collaborate to create the product. For example, in 2013 Menchie’s partnered with Sony on the movie Smurfs 2, creating a take-home yogurt cup based on the Smurfs’ mushroom-shaped houses. Working with the research and development group, the supply chain team helped figure out how to turn the idea into an actual, sellable item.
When serving our international locations, one helpful strategy is to ship yogurt bases rather than finished flavors. That allows franchisees to customize products based on local flavor preferences, so they can deliver what their guests actually want.
Local tastes vary even within the United States. For example, our guests in Southern California tend to like non-fat and sorbet products, while in the Northeast, people gravitate toward more decadent flavors and toppings. That regional diversity challenges us to strike a balance in our supply chain. We need to offer our guests a range of choices while managing costs. It’s easier to negotiate pricing if everyone purchases the same items, giving us economies of scale.
Part of the solution is to help franchisees understand the importance of product consistency and menu standardization. Also, we try to partner with manufacturers that can provide a wide range of items to increase efficiency and control freight costs. It’s easy to ask those manufacturers to ship one product mix to one region of the country, and a slightly different mix to another.
Some of my greatest career successes involved creating solid risk management plans. If a natural disaster or financial troubles shut down a critical vendor, I made sure an infrastructure was in place to get our stores the supplies they needed. Successful risk management depends on strong partnerships with the right organizations; you can’t accomplish it on your own.
The Big Questions
What valuable advice have you received from a mentor?
When I was young, a sports coach told me, "Always remain coachable, and accept accountability."
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A pilot. I thought that was the way to gain a stable career, but also have the opportunity to travel the world.
What do you love to do in your free time?
I love to cook. I have a passion for wine; I wish I had time to study to be a sommelier. I also enjoy travel, playing golf, and participating in outdoor activities.
Favorite Menchie’s flavor combination?
A fresh fruit sorbet topped with Bursting Boba, which are tapioca pearls filled with fruit juice.