Foodservice was always on Chris Monico's radar, yet after receiving a degree in hospitality management with a foodservice emphasis from Purdue University, it took a couple of false starts before he found his career path.
"After graduating, I worked with chain restaurants and quickly discovered that was not what I wanted to do," Monico says. "Yet, I knew I could sell foodservice equipment, so I found a job selling equipment and smallwares at a dealership that gave me a chance on a whim."
Five years later, after developing a taste and passion for selling equipment and facility layout, the opportunity to work in a similar capacity at C&T Design & Equipment Co. presented itself. Six years later, his customer mix consists mainly of chains and independent restaurants.
FE&S: You were drawn to the industry early on. Is working in foodservice everything you had hoped it would be?
CM: I'm glad I'm not in restaurant operations, because it's something I don't think I can do. I dabbled in that and it's difficult. For this reason, I always have respect for and understanding of operators. Also, my experience and background helps me do what I do today and be successful. I've walked in their shoes and understand how things come together. Being on this side of the business provides me with the opportunity to be active with my family since I'm not dealing with 80- to 90-hour work weeks. Still, this career is more difficult than I thought it would be, but I've learned a great deal and many people have helped me along the way.
FE&S: Foodservice design is one of your strong points. What draws you to it?
CM: Foodservice design is just like solving a big problem or math equation that has to come out right in the end. Some problems are bigger than others, and it's never the same, so the variety keeps things interesting. It's a challenge that I enjoy.
FE&S: What's your definition of good design?
CM: Good design is giving the operator or owner what they want, knowing that it will work.
FE&S: What mistakes should operators avoid making during the design phase?
CM: Operators need to trust the designers. Many times, as a designer, I listen to clients and their input. Operators who micromanage a design may make changes that are not always for the best.
FE&S: What is the key to specifying the right piece of equipment for a given project?
CM: It depends on the type of operation, the business's volume and the menu. Other factors include whether the client is a chain or independent and how much equipment is used on a daily basis. It's important to understand how things work together in the operation.
FE&S: You have a reputation for being very detail oriented. How do you keep everything straight on a given project?
CM: It's not easy, but it's a matter of being fundamentally and organizationally sound. I need to be very good at being organized and keep work organized. Not everyone has the same way of doing this, but having a good system in place for storing, retrieving and regurgitating information is key.