Andrews Foodservice Systems: Building on a Legacy of Excellent Service

Andrews Foodservice Systems (AFS) started in 1926 with brothers Joe and George Andrews, a push cart full of peaches on consignment, and a sidewalk at the corner of Second and Main streets in Pueblo, Colo. The company has since grown to be one of the leading broadline distributors of food, groceries and dry goods in its region, and it has relocated to a substantially larger, more technologically advanced warehouse in Pueblo West, Colo. The guiding principles remain the same: make every transaction better than the last and build value for clients.

AFS has built itself on a win-win-win philosophy, where every action is undertaken for the ultimate benefit of the company, the manufacturers and customers, including those in the restaurant, institution and retail food supply sectors. The AFS philosophy has helped the company stay true to its principles as markets and consumer states have changed, enabling the team to seamlessly adopt innovative technologies and new product offerings without compromising customer service or convenience.

“In our early days we would line up peaches on the sidewalk to sell them and that was the only product we sold,” adds George Andrews III, president and CEO of AFS. “Now we sell roughly 7,000 items.” AFS remains a family-owned and -operated company, run by George and two sisters, Deb Hinkle and Jacque Ponx, who collectively represent the third generation of the Andrews family at AFS. The company continues to serve the neighborhoods surrounding its headquarters, in addition to a network of valued clients across southern Colorado.

AFS remained a produce-only wholesaler until 1977, when the company gradually began broadening its produce-only focus a few grocery items at a time. Today the company sells a range of fresh fruits and vegetables, shelf-stable goods and sundries, including dish soaps and kitchen cleaning products. AFS also sells a variety of frozen prepared items like salted caramel vanilla crunch cake and cannoli. As a tip of the hat to the Pueblo community, AFS also carries an extensive array of regional staples like sopapillas mix, green chilies and a wealth of spices.

True to Its Roots

AFS has continued a heritage of planned growth thanks to the company’s solid leadership, its innovative ideas, superior customer service and quality merchandise that is second to none. With sales growing annually, AFS is a company approaching a level of expansion that even surprises the company’s management at times.

“I can still remember being a very little kid in our first warehouse, which was basically just a 20,000-square foot basement,” recalls George. “My dad was certain it would last us forever, that there just weren’t enough groceries being made to fill that space, but now we’re in an 110,000-square foot warehouse.” AFS constructed and moved into the current warehouse in 2004, consolidating operations from three previous buildings under one roof.

The last major acquisition wrapped up in 2000, when AFS acquired local competitor Stein’s Foods. “Jokes used to be made about who would come out standing if my father and Marvin Stein [previous owner of Stein’s Foods] were stuck alone in an elevator together,” muses George. “So when I heard that Stein’s Foods was up for sale and proposed the idea at a board meeting, my dad looked at me like I had three heads, but we explored it and it worked out great.”

In fact, the acquisition paved the way for AFS to enter the public sector. Stein’s Foods had already been working with School District 60 and the acquisition came just as School District 60 joined 14 other districts to form the CCSSTAR, a foodservice-purchasing cooperative. “We still sell to the restaurant trade, of course, but I would estimate 60 to 65 percent of our sales now come from the various school districts,” adds George. The move established AFS’ reputation in the public sector and led the company to pursue and obtain additional clients in the state’s penal system.

AFS also invested in a state-of-the-art tracking and scanning inventory control system in 2007. The system has enabled AFS to develop an online ordering system and ensure orders are accurately filled and items are efficiently restocked.

Keeping in Touch

AFS continually introduces new products and phases out the underperformers, working with a network of vendors. “We’re very loyal to our vendors and hopefully our customers see that, but if a client requests to change from one product to another, we’ll make that change,” explains George. The extra degree of flexibility is especially crucial when working with the local school districts, which are continually evolving to meet new nutritional regulations and labeling requirements. Whole milk has been phased out in favor of skim milk, trans fats have been blacklisted, and sodium content has become a hot topic, but AFS never fails to source appropriate products.

“From top to bottom, everyone at AFS is genuine, fair and honest, and they truly view their vendors as an integral part of the team,” asserts Don Ervin, branch manager at MHC Truck Leasing – Pueblo (MHC), which has been working with AFS for over a decade. “They are a tremendous company and an anchor to the Pueblo community. We appreciate the principles they share with MHC and we truly value their partnership.”

As the product line up evolves and customers request new items, AFS meets these needs and gains repeat customers that are all treated with respect, strengthening its reputation as a family-owned, family-operated and family-oriented company. George likes to joke that he started with the company while still in the womb, leaving only for college and a five-year spell playing professional golf in the 1990s. “Every one of us has worked here at some point, but we’re very close and we like to remind one another that we’re only as good as our last shipment,” admits George.

And AFS management is making strategic, environmentally conscious plans to assure the company and communities it serves prosper into the future. AFS entered a new era yet again in 2009 and installed a 100-kilowatt photovoltaic solar system to the roof of its warehouse. The solar energy, produced by 500 photovoltaic panels, is now AFS’ primary source of electricity. There’s still plenty of room to grow, as the AFS warehouse can easily accommodate up to a 400-kilowatt system.

In the next few years AFS plans only to pursue growth with the same win-win-win philosophy that has allowed the company to be a strong, viable entity eagerly seeking new challenges and opportunities through its first eight decades. In doing so Andrews Foodservice Systems cements its reputation as not only one of the largest, longstanding independent food service suppliers in southern Colorado, but also one that will continue to be a preferred strategic partner thanks to its ongoing legacy of excellence in customer service.