Talking Story with HFIA’s New Chair Maile Miyashiro

By Alexis Chapman

HFIA’s newest Chair Maile Miyashiro will be a familiar face to anyone who has attended HFIA events in the last few years. In addition to being an industry leader as Senior Director Customer Experience for C&S Wholesale Grocers, Maile and the C&S Wholesale Grocer and Hansen team have been crucial members of HFIA’s Social Committee. Maile brings a positive attitude and upbeat spirit to everything she does and we’re excited to she how she applies her bright leadership style as Chair of HFIA. We recently had a chance to chat with Maile about her interesting background in Hawaiʻi’s food industry, her insights about the industry, and her ideas for the future of HFIA.

Alexis: How did you get your start in the food industry?

Maile: My first experience in the food industry started in 1995.  I was employed at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Monterey, California.  I worked in various front line guest service positions within two years,  I was promoted to a Catering and Convention Service Manager. I had zero foodservice knowledge. The director that hired me said that he can teach me what I need to know about food service and what he can’t teach someone is personality. I was supported 100% by our senior leadership team from the director, executive chef and banquet staff.  I enjoy planning family events, but being a catering and convention services event coordinator was a whole new adventure.  I worked in catering and convention services for about 18 months and was promoted to a Sales Manager.  I was responsible for selling rooms, convention space and food and beverage. When I eventually transitioned wholesale grocery it was a different kind of business, but I was fortunate to still have great leadership and I knew I could learn and grow in this industry. A former HFIA Chair Beau Oshiro of C&S taught me a lot.

What do you love about being part of Hawaii’s Food Industry?

I really care about our customers and our community. I know that what we supply, food, essential items, and technology, is vital to our customers and Hawaiʻi. It means a lot to me to be able to support our clients and our state in this way.

How did you get involved with HFIA?

Beau Oshiro was our VP, Divisional Manager for Hawaii. He really understood the value of HFIA and invited our sales team to participate in HFIA events. I started to participate in committees around 2017 and found that it was really fun and a great way to be connected with the industry.  While he was Chair Charlie Gustafson of Tamura Super Market encouraged me to take a more active role in HFIA’s leadership. I was really honored to join HFIA’s Executive Committee serving as Secretary and Treasurer Staring in 2022 and then moving up to Vice Chair and now I’m excited to follow in the footsteps of Beau, Charlie, Joe, and Gary and all our great HFIA Chairs!

You’re very active on HFIA’s Social Committee, what are the benefits of being a part of HFIA’s Committees?

The biggest reward being a part of the Social Committee is the end result, to see an event come together and everyone have such a great time is so rewarding and really puts a smile on my face.  There is a ton of collaboration between each business member.  There are vendor/customer competitors however everyone works well to execute great events.  While planning or working the educational or social events, I’ve built great relationships with industry professionals within our membership.

What are the biggest challenges or opportunities you think our industry is facing in the next few years? And do you think there are solutions?  

One of the biggest challenges of being part of Hawaiʻi’s food Industry is to have adequate inventory for our customers given the distance we are from the mainland.  During the supply chain issues of the last few year our sales, operations, logistics and procurement teams really had to decide to see this as an opportunity. We developed process improvements to help support a positive outcome on increased service levels.  For some departments we found that really getting back to the basics was the key to positive outcomes, while other departments had weekly meetings to develop new processes.

Do you have any specific goals for your time as Chair of HFIA?

I’m excited about HFIA’s Vision for “A strong, sustainable and resilient food industry in Hawai‘i.” I know we’ve had a great momentum on building our membership within the past few years, I want to build on that. I also want to support initiatives to increase member participation on committees and with events. I was encouraged to really get involved with the Association and it’s been great, I want to pass that along and help others get everything they can out of HFIA.