Foodservice Equipment & Supplies

JAN 2014

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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46 • FOODSERVICE EQUIPMENT & SUPPLIES • JANUARY 2014 and advancement. They will speak up to offer an opinion and to ask questions." It is important to know what your company values in a new hire. Wueste, for example, likes to learn as much about a candidate's background or pedigree, as he puts it, as possible. "Having good parents is critical. What do the parents do?" he says. "If this is someone coming out of school, are they used to being in a team situation? What's their work back- ground? A lot of it is fnding out what's in their bones. In the case of real success stories we have been able to get some background like that on them." Given the dynamic and changing nature of the industry, a commitment to learning and a customer-centric mindset repre- sent two key qualities all foodservice professionals must pos- sess. "We need a dedication to being fexible and knowing your customer," Kelly says. "It's all about your customer. It's not about you. You need to be there for your customer. That needs to be out there and not a surprise to people. If you are not that kind of person then this is not going to be the right place for you." Learning is a two-way street, meaning business leaders need to help cultivate new ideas and approaches as they train new hires. "As consultants people pay us for our opinions," says Steve Carlson, president of Robert Rippe and Associates, a Minneapolis-based foodservice consulting frm. "When a member of your team wants to do something different you have to ask them why. If it makes sense you have to let them run with it. Eventually they need to learn to think on their own and that's not going to happen overnight." When it comes to successful foodservice professionals, passion for the industry remains the tie that binds all of them. "The drive and commitment has to be there," Capannola says. "They have to be committed not only to the job but the industry, too. It's important for everyone to own a bit of their destiny and have the important conversations about where they want to be." Hodge agrees. "We value experience, common sense and a sense of urgency because everything in the foodservice in- dustry is urgent," he says. "In terms of our sense of urgency a service agent is not like a hospital but if a customer's fryer is out of commission on a Friday night they can't do business. And we have to help rectify that." Being technologically savvy is important but not nec- essarily a defning quality in today's foodservice industry. "More information is being passed faster than ever, which is good. But you can't substitute technology for good interper- sonal skills," Hodge says. "At the end of the day, business is conducted between two people." With tablet computers fast becoming the norm for sales people, popping up in kitchens and even tableside in restau- rants to help customers place their order and pay for their meals, current and future foodservice professionals will need to know how to harness technology and turn it into a potent tool, no matter their industry segment. For example, San Di- ego-based dealership R.W. Smith & Co. arms its sales team with tablet computers loaded with all of the apps they need to conduct their business. "There is no money in our offce. So our strategy is to spend more time in the accounts," says Patrice Hagan, vice president at R.W. Smith. "When visiting their accounts, we want people spending time with the cus- tomers, not doing paper work. And the customers like it." THE IMPORTANCE OF INDUSTRY EXPERIENCE How important is previous foodservice industry experience for potential new hires? Well, it all depends on who you ask and what the company values. "We like the idea of taking someone from the industry, whether they have been in hotel and restau- rant management or some other function," says Kelly. "A little more maturity is what we are looking for when hiring someone." On the supply chain side of the foodservice industry, it can take a while to bring recent college graduates with little work experience up to speed. For example, R.W. Smith will have them spend time inside learning the business. "Having them work as a bench person and then putting them into sales territories has worked for us," Hagan says. "We prefer people not right out of college because they don't know what they don't know." Members of the supply chain think experience on the operator side of the business unlocks the passion of poten- tial new hires and provides a seasoning that prepares them for what comes next. "You have got to fall in love with this business," Wueste says. "You have to be able to take that call from an irate customer and to even be able to hear the em- ployees cry. But as a GM of a restaurant you've already heard all of that and more." That being said, restaurant industry experience is not the overriding factor most foodservice companies look for when recruiting new talent. "I would rather they have the work ethic and drive. We can teach them the business," Wueste says. "It is important they have that love of the industry, though. You have to know there is an art in watching that foodservice operator take that raw product and turn it into something special." For his part, Hodge looks for people with a sense of conf- dence and passion. "You can teach a monkey to fy a rocket ship but you can't make it want to," he says. "We want them to feel they have a stake in what happens with the company." Along those lines, R.W. Smith has been successful following what Hagan describes as the Southwest Airlines approach: "You hire for passion and train for skill," she says. "So we look for winners and that does not necessarily mean someone from within the industry. We look for a sense of urgency and passion. If they have a low sense of urgency or energy they are not going to make it in this industry." The importance of industry experience comes down to the individual and the position. "When I was frst out of school I did not have the skill set to sit in this seat. But there are a lot of entry level roles in this industry, too," Capannola says. "The great thing about this industry is that you don't have to be pigeon-holed, so to speak. There are a lot of op- portunities for you to pursue. You get to do a lot of different things and get great experiences."

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