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Cold Chain Summit: Changes in the cold chain and its impact on restaurants

The chain that brings us Hardee's and Carl's Jr. faced several challenges

This fireside chat recap is from FreightWaves’ Cold Chain Summit.

DETAILS: CKE Restaurants is famous for its Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s hamburger chains. It’s part of the Quick Service Restaurant sector, known informally as fast food. It is heavily dependent on the cold chain, and one of the leaders of CKE’s cold chain efforts was joined by Editor at Large John Kingston to discuss the last challenging year. 

SPEAKER: John Brewer, director of distribution and logistics for CKE Restaurant Holdings

BIO: John Brewer is the director of distribution and logistics for CKE Restaurant Holdings Inc. CKE owns the Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. QSR brands. With over 25 years in the distribution and logistics industry and more than half that time focused on the distribution and logistics of food service and retail, Brewer oversees the distribution and logistics operations for both Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. company and franchisee stores in all 50 states. CKE’s distribution partners deliver to approximately 3,000 stores one to two times per week. CKE’s supply chain network consists of 13 distribution centers, four redistribution centers and over 300 vendors domestically.


“What’s happened in the markets with the pandemic is that a lot of people are getting their groceries delivered at home now, so it is impacting e-commerce from a food standpoint. Even with states and municipalities opening up again, the grocery purchasing online has not slowed down.”

“Any cold chain company that could pivot from food service to retail got a really good start during the pandemic and those that couldn’t, whether they were challenged by tech or automation, they really had to struggle because as the hotels and motels and restaurants all shuttered they went from doing truckload refrigerated-type shipments all the way down to small package refrigerated shipments, which needed more touch points, more labor and they needed the facilities to be closer to their customers.”

“Basically not much has changed from a manufacturing and distribution standpoint. Unlike the fast casual and casual dining restaurants, we were able to stay open. So we were actually able to continue with our partners and help them through the rough patch.”

On the impact of vaccines on the cold chain: “The biggest challenge you saw across the country was the temperature requirements for the vaccines. They’re extremely cold and they lose their efficacy if faced with any warmup period. So you have to have equipment to be able to store it and then you also had to have equipment to transport it. In addition to all that, you have to have the technology to monitor the shipment throughout the supply chain. Some companies were actually air freighting freezers over from Asia.”On consolidation in the industry: “You have one or two that are starting to make a lot of aggressive purchases, and they are enlarging their cold chain footprint. But at the same time they are also looking at the dry side.”

More articles by John Kingston

John Kingston

John has an almost 40-year career covering commodities, most of the time at S&P Global Platts. He created the Dated Brent benchmark, now the world’s most important crude oil marker. He was Director of Oil, Director of News, the editor in chief of Platts Oilgram News and the “talking head” for Platts on numerous media outlets, including CNBC, Fox Business and Canada’s BNN. He covered metals before joining Platts and then spent a year running Platts’ metals business as well. He was awarded the International Association of Energy Economics Award for Excellence in Written Journalism in 2015. In 2010, he won two Corporate Achievement Awards from McGraw-Hill, an extremely rare accomplishment, one for steering coverage of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster and the other for the launch of a public affairs television show, Platts Energy Week.