Synergies Between Sysco & CAKE Powering the Next Generation of Tech Innovation

by Sysco LABS Articles 26 August 2016

Sysco Executive Vice President & Chief Technology Officer Mr Wayne Shurts makes first visit to Colombo

In the age of information, the integration of new technologies into facets of daily life continues at a staggering pace. As a multinational corporation that has marketed and distributed food products to a vast clientele across food service and hospitality businesses for well over four decades, Sysco Corporation has become a respected leader in the field.

Seeking to further enhance its value proposition, Sysco acquired Silicon Valley based tech startup CAKE, creators of innovative solutions for restaurants, ranging from mobile marketing to point of sale, and payments solutions.

Given the continuing successful relationship between CAKE and Sysco, Sysco’s Executive Vice President & Chief Technology Officer, Mr. Wayne Shurts recently made his first visit to CAKE LABS in Colombo; the engineering and operations team behind CAKE, where he spoke of life at Sysco, and the relationship between Sysco and CAKE, before outlining some general industry trends and elaborating on the wider role of technology and innovation in the modern context.


How would you describe the role of Sysco in the food service industry?

“At Sysco Corporation, we define ourselves as the industry leader. As such, our goal is to make our customers successful, and so we are driven by what’s important to our customers. This is part of our vision that has helped the company to stay focused on customers while adopting new technologies to better serve our clients.”

“Some might think of us as just a food product distributor, but I think it’s safe to say that we’ve always been a lot more than just that,” he explained.


What role, according to you does technology play in the restaurant industry?

“Technology is becoming an increasingly ubiquitous feature in almost every sector of the global economy, as such there are unprecedented new opportunities being opened through innovation.

Today it is no longer possible to insulate against rapid technological advancements. This is a significant factor in every industry and it is of course true of the food industry as well. We believe that innovators like CAKE will serve an important role in providing information, systems, tools and support to improve the services that we provide to our customers.

By combining the extensive data that Sysco has gathered across all aspects of the supply chain, and linking that information with the powerful insights into customer behavior and demand that CAKE has generated from a retail perspective, we can engineer improved synergies that will revolutionize the food industry as a whole.”


What exactly have you seen CAKE and CAKE LABS do in the industry so far?

“Currently, CAKE LABS is the driving force behind CAKE, which is a new paradigm in restaurant technology; a fully integrated restaurant operating systems running the complete gamut of services. From social discovery of your restaurant, to making a reservation, online, mobile ordering, and restaurant operations management via advanced point-of-sales systems, CAKE does it all and is expanding in its functionality every day.

Having since launched CAKE nationwide across the United States, the system has already achieved steady growth within the food service industry.

CAKE has demonstrated a clear ability to improve market share. Since its launch, they have really gained significant traction in the market. But from a Sysco perspective, we’re just getting started. There are just so many growth opportunities available out there.

Working together, I’m more than confident that we will be able take an even larger share moving forward.”


Why did Sysco decide to partner with another organization like CAKE? Are there any advantages you find of doing so, over simply developing these competencies internally?

“The spirit of innovation that CAKE has brought to the table is something that we find extremely encouraging. As a 45 year old company, Sysco’s IT department grew up in a different age. While our experience means that we are able to leverage considerable resources when needed, the relative youth of CAKE is able to cater to the progressive demands of today’s agile, faster paced market place in a very interesting new way.

We intend to take advantage of these innovations and move towards establishing IT Labs in the US that are based on the model established by CAKE LABS.”


What major trends in technology do you think will affect the restaurant industry, and how?

“So big data is obviously a very potent trend in technology today. At Sysco, we say that our data collection points go ‘from farm to futon’ – Sysco’s data flow starts right from the farm, and runs all the way through to when someone is ordering a meal to be delivered to their home, and consuming it on their futon.

With CAKE’s data in particular, Sysco is able to trace the path of the food from raw material to its point of consumption. This is bringing us tremendous insights on consumer trends, food safety, and productivity.

The Internet of things, which continues to grow daily, will also likely play a significant role in our future. As the prevalence and interconnectivity of smart devices grow, we will be remotely monitoring a great deal of our supply chain. For example, Sysco’s fleet of trucks can remotely regulate their internal temperature, and even monitor the vehicle as well as the driver in order to ascertain whether maintenance would be required, or if the driver should drive differently to be more fuel efficient.

On our visit to CAKE LABS, we have also seen a great deal of experiments and testing conducted within the organization, such as lighting control and other dynamic new features that integrate new technologies that have been released into the market by companies like Amazon, Philips, Leap and many more. This is very encouraging because this is how you can develop an early mover advantage in these technologies.”


What can you tell us about your acquisition of Brakes, and the move into Europe?

“Brakes provides Sysco with a gateway to the UK, Sweden and France. As a leading food distributor in Europe, Breaks’ management and culture is on par with that of Sysco, factors which have enabled a smooth transition.

This acquisition will provide an excellent platform for growth within Europe. Moving forward we want to do more than simply provide food and food products. We want to offer technology and consulting that will help our customers establish themselves as major players in the market.

Brakes is another great stepping stone for our plan of global expansion and in the same vein, we are confident that CAKE will also play an important role in growing the global Sysco footprint.


Can you comment on the Sri Lankan IT industry in general?

“One of the things that I’ve seen in the past few days and been very impressed with is the IT talent that is coming out of the universities. There is a great foundation between the universities and the companies that are doing IT. The quality of engineers in general is what stood out in Sri Lanka, this is a small country, not one that can generate a large volume of engineers like I have seen in some of the other economies I have visited; but instead each individual engineer seems to be of a high quality, and the industry is leveraging that to its success. “


What do you think about the launch of CAKE in Sri Lanka in July 2015, and the progress it has made?

“Launching in Sri Lanka gives local restaurants access to a truly great product that has been a preferred choice across the United States. This means that they are getting a real benefit.

On top of this however, the Colombo market is comparatively small so there is an opportunity to really saturate the market with our product, and this allows us to use the country as a testing ground for innovative and highly creative new ideas which we can then take to the US.

In this manner, CAKE LABS engineers are able to gather practical insights into how their product works and get a better understanding of the client-side challenges associated with the product. The local restaurant industry gets the advantage of having access to the innovations of a world technology platform, often before they are even rolled out across the rest of the world.

Moving forward, CAKE LABS continues to innovate and is planning to launch a further two products into the Sri Lankan market over the course of 2016, subsequent to the completion of beta testing phases. The two products in question include reservations, waitlist and table management software, and a discovery and online ordering platform designed to revolutionize the food delivery industry in Sri Lanka.



Having commenced his career in 1981 as a Management Trainee at Nabisco, within 20 years, Mr. Shurts progressed through the ranks, serving in a number of roles that included Vice President-Sales Operations, Vice President-North American Supply Chain Process and Vice President-e-Business.

After leaving Nabisco, he became the president of the Principles Group, a consulting firm assisting companies such as IBM, Avaya, and Johnson & Johnson. He has also served at Cadbury Schweppes, first as Senior Vice President-Information Technology, and then as CIO in 2008. Prior to joining Sysco in 2012, he served as the Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer for SUPERVALU.

Commenting on his diverse experience prior to joining Sysco, he said: “It is always a bit uncomfortable to go from something you know to something completely new, but I think that’s where a lot of growth came – by having to be uncomfortable for a while and get used to it.”



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