Foodservice Equipment & Supplies

APR 2018

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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Page 34 of 107

APRIL 2018 • FOODSERVICE EQUIPMENT & SUPPLIES • 33 The latest Rapids acquisition is a ocal service agency in Cedar Falls, Iowa, which came with a cash-and- carry store. Rapids subcontracts with a network of service agents throughout the country to serve its chain custom- ers. The lone exception to that rule applies to any customers the Cedar Falls-based service agency can help. Customers in that area get company- dispatched service agents. In addition to its Marion headquar- ters, Rapids has contract and design offices in St. Paul, Minn., Earth City, Mo., and Burlington, N.C. The firm also operates cash-and-carry stores in St. Paul and Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Training Is Key Rapids' leadership team focuses on bringing young people into the company. "We try to focus on young folks who desire to make a differ- ence," Schmitt says. To foster a spirit of creativity, the company takes team members through "innovation train- ing." They learn to open their minds to new ways of viewing the business in order to serve customers better. The company also requires re- fresher training on basic customer service skill sets; existing employees get refresher courses twice a year. New em- ployees receive customer service train- ing as well. "It gives us some ground rules to play by, with either external or internal customers," Schmitt explains. Relationships remain important in foodservice, Schmitt counsels. "I believe over the long haul the relation- ships you have with folks are critical. If you can deliver what the customer wants and needs, then you can over- come objections, whether it's price or a competitive bid. Some of those basics — understanding how to interact personally — still go a long way." Schmitt credits flexibility for the company's success. "The element that has allowed us to be able to accomplish what we have is being open-minded enough to be ready for opportunities and to look for change." This strat- egy has resulted in multiple revenue streams. "People can shop from our catalog or in our web store. They can go into our cash-and-carry locations. They can use our design services or get repair or maintenance service from one of our technicians." Schmitt encourages employees to be ready to discuss all of the services with customers in order to deepen and expand the relationships. "We are train- ing employees to talk about additional services available," he says. Thoughts on the Industry Like most foodservice supply segments, the dealer side has been subject to a lot of consolidation. "It's much more com- petitive today than when we bought the company," Schmitt says. "We just try to offer services above and beyond what our competitors do. We try to meet customers' needs, and we are small enough to be nimble, able to switch direction or add a service easily." Kitchen design is also undergoing change. "Our design team is seeing a shift in the type of kitchens that operators need," Schmitt says. "They want smaller, more flexible tools in their kitchens. Instead of having a double-stack convec- tion oven, they might have four small, accelerated-cook-speed ovens that they can move around. Instead of a 10-burner saute station that you can't move because it's under a hood, you might have induc- tion saute stations." The goal is to be able to achieve flexibility and not be stuck to the same menu and the same products. This kind of creativity in the ongo- ing evolution of the back of the house that will be necessary for the dealer segment to succeed in business, Schmitt believes. "The dealers who will survive long term will have multifaceted rev- enue streams," he says. He adds: "I think that Amazon and that sort of go-to-market strategy will play some role in this industry long term. If, as a dealer, if we are not creat- ing value that the customer appreciates and respects, they will go someplace else for price or convenience. Our challenge is to find the customers who value the services that we provide." Quick Facts: Joe Schmitt Education: BA, Accounting, University of Northern Iowa; CPA Industry involvement: President of FEDA, 11 years as a FEDA board member and convention chair Family: Married for 36 years to Geri. Four children: Eric Schmitt, Nick Schmitt, Ali Gansen and Anna Schmitt. Six grandchildren: Lilly, Aurelia, Charlie, Magdalene, Theo and Marianna and No. 7 on the way Weekday wakeup time: 4:30 a.m. Go-to food when dining out: House specialty What do you think about when you are in your car? Family stuff, employees, new ideas to implement and how to improve our business for end users by listening to innovation-type podcasts. What one word would your co-workers use to describe you? Fair. What one word would your family use to describe you? Thoughtful. What's your superpower? I am not allowed to share this. Sorry. What was the last picture you took on your phone? Scanned a photo of Geri and me from 40 years ago when we were first dating. She still looks much the same … me, not so much!

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