Fred Bonaccorso, President, M. Tucker

How did you get started in the business?

I actually began my career in the publishing business, with Reuben H. Donnelley, on the street carrying the bag, selling advertising to small- and medium-sized companies on the streets of Manhattan and the boroughs to restaurants and catering establishments. Over the years I progressed through the ranks, and moved up to executive management.  I ran an operation of 500 people. But I began to realize that, with the Internet, the print industry was on the decline.  So I joined a small Internet start up and built a sales organization, and then I joined Sysco Guest Supply. That was the transition to the hospitality business for me. I came to Sysco as the Vice President of sales for that $1 billion division.  Sysco Guest Supply is a manufacturer and distributor of hotel supplies.

How did you get hooked up with M. Tucker?  What intrigued you about the opportunity?

A recruiter contacted me, and he introduced the whole idea of M. Tucker.  When I learned about the opportunity, I became very excited.  I fell in love with the whole distribution industry and was thrilled about having the opportunity to run a business.  I had a lot of success with Sysco and my feelings were I could do the same for the M. Tucker organization.

What especially did you like about the company?

The team felt like it worked together like a family.  The culture felt like one I could drive in.  How the business puts customers as their top priority – I felt I could be part of a very successful team and that was very exciting to me.

What are your priorities as you take over this position?

My priorities revolve around taking care of customers and the growth and training of the sales team, providing a culture and environment for the employees where they can grow and enhance our internal processes so we can give our customers the very best service now and in the future.

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With the growth of the ‘Net, how do you see the role of the dealer and M. Tucker evolving to fit this new technology?

That’s the million dollar question.  How much of an impact will the Internet continue to have in changing the business is the question. We want to make sure we provide our customers with the tools and platforms they’re most comfortable using.  There’s no one platform for sourcing in the future, it will be more of a multi-channel environment. What I’m doing now is taking steps to satisfy the demands of our customers by investing in technology and the training of the entire team so we can continue to be a leader now and in the future and in this multi-channel environment.

Once you give a customer your services and processes, how do you keep them from shopping whatever they’re buying from you as a commodity?

I don’t think you can stop some customers from shopping on price on commodity-type items but I do know how we sold the last year, the last five years, is no longer going to be as effective as it will be in the future.  Our distribution sales representative (DSR) has to go beyond the relationship, they have to add value. Our customers are becoming smarter and more demanding. They’re really looking for ideas and suggestions to help their business. We can do that, and provide that extra value.  Then the importance of a commodity-level item, saving a fraction of a dollar, may potentially not be as valuable as what the DSR is bringing to the org.

As you look at this next-generation sales person today, does it have to be a younger person who understands technology or an older person who has these wonderful relationships but doesn’t embrace technology?   How do you look for the next generation who’s going to work in this environment?

It centers around the individual’s desire and ability, it’s not necessarily an age-related situation. The combination of both is the desired skill level. As we train the next generation of distribution sales people, it’s important that we provide them with a platform of both technology and training, that we give them the skills to meet the ever-changing market that’s taking place now.

M. Tucker has always had this incredible support team that people don’t see.  What makes you different in terms of that support?  How will it continue?

Technology is an aid to the sales process, not the final solution.  What attracted me to this business, this company is 100% built around the customer and his needs.  From our DSR to the designer to the project managers, we’re here for the customer.  Even maintaining such high levels of inventory is really for one reason only, to give next-day delivery. Here’s Amazon struggling to get next-day delivery, and we’ve been doing that for 15 years in this market. We believe in supporting our customers more with a team so that we can better meet their needs, whether they’re looking for stock items, or something unique.  Because our vast resources, we can solve their request. What sometimes gets taken for granted is how much time and work goes into researching and identifying and purchasing the right solution for our customers.  But at the end of the day, that’s our job. That’s what we want them to depend on us for. And that’s what we bring to the market.

Our industry is constantly evolving – for example, Danny Meyer and no more tipping. Where is our industry heading and what’s the role M. Tucker will play to help customers accomplish those visions?

Our industry will continue to grow, not just grow but become more complex with new and creative ways of doing business. It used to be where a business owner had one restaurant but now this is big business.  Customers are getting larger, owners are opening multiple locations, covering larger geographic areas but also providing unique experiences.  They really need a supplier who can grow with them as well as still handle the local business. We’re building platforms to accommodate that growth, so we can take care of these multi-unit locations and of course we’ll continue to take care of our one-family businesses but we’re building technology and processes that will give them a consistent experience wherever they need us. Bottom line, our customers are innovating at a very fast pace, faster than ever before. This has become a very dynamic market.  We have to bring them supply chain solutions and new ideas so we can more than satisfy them and maintain our leadership position with them. It’s an exciting time for our industry.

Tucker’s done an amazing job of supporting not just the local restaurant community but you do an amazing job in the B & I area.  You have wonderful health care relationships, corporate dining, and colleges.  How do you look at the needs of that customer base? Is that a different job than what you do with the rest?

The needs of these segments vary and overall are very different from the restaurant community. They have their own nuances. This group tends to prepare large-scale meals, cook and serve and buffets. Unlike in the past, their patrons are looking for the same quality and variety of meals they’d get in a restaurant.  Some companies are now using these facilities as a company benefit and even as a recruiting incentive, like company-paid meals.  Our job is to help these facilities really design an environment that’s both efficient and capable of handling the demands of these customers.  Due to the large volumes prepared, M. Tucker has been and will continue to be fully capable of being their one-stop supplier, providing everything from great design to resupply to making their on-going purchase more efficient. The end customer is much more particular today about his experience. Take the Milllenials.  They’re much more aware of the quality of food, they want organic, they want juicing. There are food allergies that we’re much more aware of today.  All these things must be taken into consideration in these types of establishments. We understand these trends and the strength we bring to the table is that we stand ready to help our customers meet the demands not only of the facility itself but the people who will be using those facilities.

What will the industry look like five years from now?

There will certainly be changes over the next two to five years as we not only enhance our platforms to handle a lot of the dynamic changes that are taking place in the market as well as continue to enhance and train and develop our sales organization to meet those demands in that multi-platform environment. I feel very confident and excited to be a part of this organization. I look forward to what the future holds for us.  I think it’s going to be a great opportunity for the employees, customers and the business overall.