Starting a career in the foodservice industry during a recession may seem like a recipe for disaster, but it was perfect timing for Kevin Corral.
He joined the ADE Restaurant Services Inc. sales team in 2009, at the request of Steve Schoop, the company's owner and his father-in-law. Corral previously managed a staffing and recruiting firm and worked in various sales roles for a number of companies. "I've always been a go-getter, but I was starting from scratch and didn't know anything about the foodservice industry," says Corral.
The economic climate turned out to be the appropriate time for Corral to get up to speed, which he did for the next two years. This included going on factory tours, taking courses at universities, attending SEFA events and doing regular ridealongs with local sales reps.
The time and effort eventually paid off, and today Corral's portfolio includes small chains, independent
operators and hospitals.
FE&S: You entered the foodservice industry during one of the slowest economic periods in its history. How did you get up to speed and weather those challenging times?
KC: Fortunately, my company allowed me to take the time to truly learn about design, equipment, the sales process and the industry in general. I couldn't have done it if I was thrown directly into the fire. Instead, I slowly worked my way into it and gained a better understanding of foodservice equipment and the industry by going on factory tours, making cold calls and educating myself with help from my seasoned team of industry leaders at ADE, SEFA's training and my local factory representatives.
FE&S: You work with a lot of growing and emerging chains. How do you help them get the right equipment package that meets their budgets?
KC: Mostly we work on design and help clients with flow and layout to see what type of equipment is feasible. We start from their dream kitchen and work our way to a plan that fits their budget. We will also help emerging chains with financing equipment.
FE&S: How do you adjust your business strategy for a small chain versus a large hospital?
KC: The strategy doesn't change for me, because I'm always focusing on what's best for the individual customer. Whether it's a large hospital or small emerging chain, my purpose is to find out what's best for them. This may be in the form of a new design, a new innovative piece of equipment or just a fresh set of eyes for their operation.
FE&S: Occasionally, things don't go as planned with a project or a delivery. How do you go about rectifying the project?
KC: Freight damage, in particular, is a very common occurrence in this industry. We recently worked with a coffee chain in Hawaii that needed its equipment shipped in a 40-foot container under tight time constraints. One of the walk-ins we received had two damaged panels. I took photos, took down the serial numbers and sent these to our local rep so we could get replacement panels in time to ship it. Project cycles are much shorter than they were even six years ago, so it's important to work with factories and freight companies to minimize these issues so deadlines can be met.
FE&S: What kind of experience do you want your customers to have when working with you?
KC: My goal is to provide a seamless process from the time of initial design to when equipment is delivered. We try to do everything we can to take on the issues ourselves rather than have our customers deal with them. They definitely have enough on their plate.
FE&S: What excites you the most about the future of the foodservice industry?
KC: The fact that restaurants are branching out and becoming more environmentally friendly is a wonderful thing.
FE&S: If I were starting out in this industry today, what advice would you give me?
KC: I would say it's important to take the time to learn the industry, truly listen to customers and understand their needs. As a salesperson, it helps to understand what clients want to accomplish in their operation.