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New warehouse space will allow KaTom to double inventory

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a two-part series on KaTom Restaurant Supply. The second article will be published in our weekday newsletter.)

By Kailyn Lamb, Marketing Content Writer and Editor, PYA

In late March, we wrote a brief on KaTom Restaurant Supply’s announcement that it would be expanding its fulfillment center in Kodak. We recently caught up with Charley Bible, Vice President of Business Development on the new space, as well as what’s next for the business.

Teknovation.biz readers will also remember a series of articles we wrote in 2020 about KaTom and Bible’s mother Patricia, who is Chief Executive Officer. She and Tim Bible founded KaTom in 1982. (Here are Parts 1,  2, and 3 of that series.)

In Part 2 of that series, Patricia told teknovation.biz that her goal was to hit $1 billion in revenue. In the nearly two years since that interview, Charley Bible said KaTom has doubled its revenue and is halfway toward the goal Patricia set.

Charley joked that when he was growing up, he never wanted to join the family business. At a young age, he worked in the warehouses, saying “it was just what I grew up around.” Instead, he wanted to start his own path and go to school to be a lawyer. But after graduating with his bachelor’s and going on a trip abroad, he realized he didn’t want to continue going to school, he wanted to work.

Upon returning home, Charley said he had an internship at a corporate business. Later, he did an internship for Jackson Healthcare in Georgia. It was here, he said, that he realized what a large family business could become. Jackson, a second-generation family business, was moving to a new, larger campus.

“I saw that was the path that my family business was heading down,” Charley said.

Shortly after his internship at Jackson, Patricia offered Charley a job at KaTom, which he accepted. On working with his mom, Charley said the family keeps family and work life separate. (Charley’s sister, Paula Bible Chesworth, is Vice President for eCommerce.)

“We’re a very close family, but we’re very close in business as well.”

When he first joined the business in 2010, Charley said business processes were behind KaTom’s growth. His primary focus became process improvement. Having that experience before moving into his current role in business development has been very valuable, he said. It was in process improvement that he learned about the business and began to understand its strengths and weaknesses.

“I’m very grateful that I started in the businesses in the process improvement area because I understand our capabilities,” he said.

In the current 150,000-square-foot warehouse, some of those capabilities are getting stretched thin. Because of that, KaTom has broken ground on an additional 150,000 square feet. Charley said concrete was being poured in mid-May, and KaTom hopes to have a certificate of occupancy by November. In the meantime, Charley said the business has rented warehouse space in Oak Ridge for the full-service design+build portion of its business.

“That move will double our distribution footprint, which is desperately needed,” he said.

Charley said KaTom opened its last expansion on the warehouse a short 18 months ago. This time, the business opted for a larger expansion which will double its footprint. Charley said the new space will allow KaTom to double, or even triple, inventory. In addition, he said the business has started looking into opening a second distribution space. While his family is looking throughout the greater Knoxville area, Charley said they have also considered western states such as Colorado, Nevada, and Utah. Having a second distribution center in that area would allow KaTom to more quickly fill orders for customers on that side of the country.

Although the coronavirus had a huge impact on the restaurant industry and many of KaTom’s clients, Charley said the business doubled down and turned to innovation to keep the business going. Something people also don’t realize about KaTom is that it also serves more than just restaurants. It provides foodservice equipment to hospitals, schools, prisons, and more.

“The thing about our company is our name is KaTom Restaurant Supply, but we supply so much more than restaurants,” Charley explained. “Our customers are all across the board.”

In the second part of this article, which will be published in the teknovation.biz Weekday Edition, we will talk about some innovations KaTom Restaurant Supply has looked to in the past and the new design technology it’s using now.

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