Twenty-five years ago, Brian Storm had to make a choice - work as an architect, as he had trained to do, or become a DSR.
So, he became both.
And he has never been sorry.
Storm, a DSR with Best Restaurant Equipment & Design Inc. in Columbus, Ohio, and FE&S' DSR of the Month for March 2004, said, "I like doing design work here. I do a lot of initial consulting with the architectural firms my clients deal with, and I do a lot of the planning and design tasks I would have done if I had been just an architect."
Best, founded in 1987, employs 24 equipment and smallwares sales specialists. The firm specializes in serving chain restaurants, designing layouts and specifying turnkey equipment, furniture and small-wares packages.
The value-added nature of his services is clearly a major incentive for operators to want to work with Storm.
Storm studied architecture in college and, in fact, entered the foodservice industry a quarter-century ago in the design department - indeed, running the design department - of S.S. Kemp in Cleveland, where he worked for 15 years before coming to Best.
"I was responsible for all the design work there and, basically, I functioned as a liaison between the sales staff and customers," he recalled. "Back then, I never was really directly involved with sales. I made the decision 10 years ago, however, to get into the selling side."
Storm today works almost exclusively in the field, logging anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 air-miles per week visiting various customers. Nearly all of his accounts are casual-dining multi-unit concepts and run the gamut from national chains to a 100-unit regional Italian chain.
These customers, he pointed out, benefit from his architectural background. As he explained, "I do a lot of design work for them. Although their concepts are pretty much defined by now, I do plans for odd-shaped facilities they may move into. That way, they don't have to resort to anyone else outside our company."
The value-added nature of his services is clearly a major incentive for operators to want to work with Storm. As he conceded, "I think it gives me an edge. I do a lot of consulting ... and I'm a very detail-oriented individual. I spend a lot of time going over drawings and construction details, working out the kinks for the owners so they don't have to worry about them."
One clear indicator that Storm plays an effective role has been the fact that he has surpassed his annual sales goals during each of his 10 years with Best and perennially is one of its top two grossing DSRs. For 2003, he personally accounted for $4.5 million - about a half- million dollars over his goal - of Best's company-wide $29 million in annual sales. Storm said that in 2004 he is looking to expand his business with a few additional casual concepts. "What I try to do is generate word of mouth, one client referring us to another. We always try and perform our projects in such a way that customers will refer us to someone else. As chains expand, there is always an individual who breaks off and becomes part of another concept. I have a few accounts where that is occurring now and I'm pursuing those, as well."
Storm, 48, lives in Columbus with his wife Debra. They have four daughters: Kellie, 25; Leslie, 21; Ashlie, 18; and Emilie, 13.