Foodservice Equipment & Supplies magazines is an industry resource connecting foodservice operators, equipment and supplies manufacturers and dealers, and facility design consultants.
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64 • FOODSERVICE EQUIPMENT & SUPPLIES • APRIL 2017 company can better serve its manufacturers, dealers, end users and consultants. "Many of our lines take a long time to learn, and the expectations of the manufac- turers are very high. To be able to support the customers we need to know about the particular products, how they work and how an end user might use them. This takes a fair amount of time and planning. So Steve and I just feel we can't do that for our manufacturers if we have too many lines," says Stahl. This deep product knowledge becomes es- pecially important for the types of projects Stahl tack- les. Many of these are very complex and involved, and often take years to come to fruition. Those, in fact, are Stahl's fa- vorite jobs. She enjoys tackling complex designs and coming up with solutions that give operators what they truly need. This has rightfully earned Stahl a reputation not just for expertise, but also for truly having her customers' best inter- ests at heart. Getting questions from end users, dealers and consultants makes her happy because it shows they are truly thinking about their projects. "I always say to my customers, 'Until my factory starts to cut metal, it's never too late to change your mind.' I have no problem with that" Stahl says. "I don't care if we sit down six times and they change their mind six times and we have to re- budget and revise the layout. I can almost guarantee that in the end, the end product is going to be exactly what they wanted." A Responsive Reputation The commitment to doing right by her customers perme- ates Ritten Associates' culture. The firm has a reputation for being extremely thorough and responsive. Staying so detail oriented, Stahl adds, helps keep the relationships among fac- tories, dealers, consultants and end users running smoothly. Given the cost and complex- ity of the projects that Ritten's lines are specified for, this is especially important. "There are so many differ- ent people involved in these transactions, from general contractors to architects, to deal- ers, to end users, to consultants. Everybody's touched it, and every step of the way we've got to make certain everything stays on track," says Stahl. While much of Stahl's success ties back to her expertise and commitment to detail, she can still see the big picture. In recent years, she's shown that by organizing The Ritten Event. The idea for the event came when she was consid- ering a problem facing her customers: Attending the National Restaurant Associa- tion's annual trade show and the biennial NAFEM Show just wasn't in their budgets. The Ritten Event addresses this by bringing a small slice of those shows to the customers. Every few years, when Ritten Associates has the right mix of new products and client projects, the company will rent a ballroom at a local, upscale hotel. Ritten Associates invites the factories it represents to bring equipment to showcase, while the firm schedules a convenient time for its customers to meet with the manufacturers. The event includes breakfast and lunch, as well as an open-bar happy hour at the end of the day. The event, Stahl says, has been an enormous success. Everyone truly appreciates the one-on-one time factories get with dealers, consultants and end users. And of course, Ritten Associates' customers and specifiers appreciate getting a trade show-like experience without having to make a trade show-like investment. A unique forum, The Ritten Event is yet another example of the company's commitment to helping its customers first and foremost. That commit- ment most defines Stahl's career. "A lot of the projects we work on don't land in our territory [Minnesota or the Dakotas]," says Stahl. "Often I'll never see the end result on quite a few of those. But you still know you're involved, and you still know you're helping. Our team likes the challenge of helping our customers solve problems; we all know we will learn something new, each day, from someone we will work with." FE&S MANUFACTURERS' REPRESENTATIVE VERY COMPLEX AND INVOLVED PROJECTS, WHICH OFTEN TAKE YEARS TO COME TO FRUITION, ARE IN FACT, STAHL'S FAVORITE JOBS. Hometown: Minneapolis Education: B.S. University of Minnesota Hobbies: Cooking, gardening, tennis First Job: Waitress Industry Involvement: Member MAFSI; member of the Minnesota School Nutrition Association and on the Industry Advisory Board and Marketing Commit- tee of that organization Personal: Married for 33 years to her husband Peter. The couple has two daughters, Whitney and Stephanie. GET TO KNOW STACEY STAHL