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Hiawatha Chef Supply ‘makes history’ with attendance at first-ever virtual Excell conference

General Manager Mary Feldhusen was one of three from Hiawatha Chef Supply, Inc. who participated in the first Excell Foodservice Equipment Dealer Network conference ever to be held entirely online. The Dealer Meeting pictured was held April 12. She attended from home. (Hiawatha Chef Supply photo)

Hiawatha Chef Supply, Inc. “helped make history in April,” according to a news release.

The company was among 122 dealer members represented at the Excell Foodservice Equipment Dealer Network’s (Excell’s) first conference ever to be held entirely online.

Attending the “E-TV: Stronger Together” conference for Hiawatha April 12-15 were Owner and President Tracy Thompson, General Manager Mary Feldhusen, and Purchasing Agent Paula Meunier.

“Kudos to the Excell administrators and Foodservice Equipment Reports for their use of the FER VNext (Virtual NEXT) platform for conducting this year’s conference,” Feldhusen wrote of Excell afterwards. “I was able to navigate the system and participate in the Suite Rotations (with ease).”

Excell employed FER Virtual NEXT to facilitate individual meetings between the dealers and the 112 member vendors who attended.

“Think speed-dating, where you can virtually meet with small groups or one-on-one, one after the other,” the organization explained in its pre-program information.

Virtual NEXT is a proprietary videoconferencing platform developed by Foodservice Equipment Reports (FER) Media LLC in conjunction with the Specifi® software development company. The virtual conference also incorporated use of Cvent which Excell called an “email, website and registration platform,” Dropbox file hosting service, and LinkedIn professional network.

“Excell owned and facilitated the Dealer Meeting and Awards Celebration” livestreamed via Zoo, according to Marketing Director Alyssa Auerbach.

In all, 620 conference-goers participated in an average of 34 meetings per day, during the four-day event. Each of the meetings between dealers and vendors lasted exactly eight minutes.

Director of Events Leona Labruyere said in a news release, “Attendees were sent a unique link to enter into the FER VNext Table Rotations Platform. Simply click on this link at the beginning of each day and–presto, pure magic, baby–you will enter into the table rotations meetings and–abracadabra–you will be automatically transitioned throughout your schedule every day.”

“We have always been an organization that engages in change to enhance our prospects for a successful future,” Randy Brunschwig told viewers in a welcome to the conference. “In the end, we stayed focused on our main (goal): to deliver value and solutions to our vendor and dealer partners.”

Brunschwig is Excell’s president and chief executive officer.

The Denver, Colorado-based buying group was founded in 1995 and held its first conference one year later. The organization was to have marked its 25th anniversary at the 24th annual conference last year in Palm Springs, California. The 2020 conference was cancelled, however, and the 2021 conference held virtually, instead, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Excell’s in-person conferences are expected to resume in 2022, when the group’s member dealers and vendors are set to meet April 3-7 at Renaissance Orlando at Sea World, in Orlando, Florida.

Hiawatha Chef Supply has been an Excell member since 2005. The company is a four-time winner of the organization’s Excellerator sales awards, and a three-time winner of its Excellathon Growth Incentive Trips. Last year, Hiawatha ranked 76th in purchase volume among all dealers in the group.

Hiawatha Chef Supply, Inc. is a foodservice and janitorial equipment and supplies distributorship founded in Escanaba, Michigan, in 1955. It operates stores in Escanaba and Appleton, Wisconsin, and can be found on the Internet at www.hiawathachef.com and on Facebook.

The company is a member of the Excell Foodservice Equipment Dealer Network and the Foodservice Equipment Distributors Association.

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