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DSR of the Month, Sept. 2009: Rosemarie Baca, National Restaurant Supply, Albuquerque, N.M.

Rosemarie Baca describes herself as the type of person who takes ownership of a situation and manages it. She started in foodservice at the age of nine working with her family's business.

At the age of 13, Rosemarie took on running a sports concession, hiring food hawkers at the Albuquerque Sports Stadium. "I had to hire new food hawkers every day, because the job was temporary," she says. "I was responsible for matching the money with the inventory that was sold. It was a big job for a young girl, but I was up for the challenge."

During her extensive and diverse foodservice career, Baca also managed a deli, owned a 40-seat gourmet sandwich restaurant and served as foodservice manager, and then food and beverage director, for The Isleta Casino in New Mexico.

She joined National Restaurant Supply, working in front counter sales, before taking the plunge into outside sales.
Baca's client base is as diverse as her career, consisting of independent and chain restaurants, hotels, and government entities, including senior centers and Head Start programs.

Rosemarie Baca, National Restaurant Supply, Albuquerque, N.M.
Rosemarie Baca, National Restaurant Supply, Albuquerque, N.M.
FE&S: How does your experience working in restaurants help you better serve your customers?
RB: I'm more aware of the importance and urgency of getting information to my customers. When I was on the operator side and needed a quote, I didn't want it two weeks later. I know that a quick response is necessary to develop trust with my customers.

FE&S: How do you stay in tune with the unique needs of such a diverse customer base?
RB: I make it a point to develop personal relationships with everyone and understand their cultural uniqueness. My customers know that when they have a request, I will listen to what they want, and do everything in my power to resolve that request promptly.

FE&S: Describe a unique way you have helped a customer research new products.
RB: A Santa Fe customer was unhappy with his waste disposal system in his restaurant. I arranged a demonstration of a successful waste operation at Los Alamos National Labs and drove my customer up to the facility, which was an hour away. The demonstration went beautifully, and the customer gained a better understanding of how to reconfigure his waste system.

FE&S: How do you see your job changing in the next three to five years?
RB: My job changes every day, and it is exciting to see what is new and what will come up next. The internet has changed our business quite a bit. The thing I remember most about being a young girl shopping at a department store was the personal customer service. This is something that is lost with internet sales. It saddens me to see this element fading. As a DSR, good conversations and relationships are important. I want to understand what customers' concerns are, while reassuring them that they can rely on me as their representative. I do not want to see personal relationships go away.

FE&S: When you switched over to the dealer side from being an operator, what surprised you the most?
RB: It was an eye-opener learning about everything that was involved in setting up a kitchen. I had little knowledge of the particulars, like ceiling height and all of the mechanicals involved. In this business, it is important to be precise and familiar with all of the details that go into creating a commercial kitchen.

FE&S: What are the most important attributes of a successful DSR?
RB: Even though you may not have the knowledge initially, make every effort to deliver all of the correct information needed whether you are selling an individual piece of foodservice equipment or equipping an entire kitchen. It's important to be up front and honest with customers. Mistakes happen, but it's important to correct them promptly.

FE&S: What advice would you give someone just starting out in the business?
RB: Taking on too much can be overwhelming. Don't try to conquer the world, just take it one step at a time.

FE&S: To what do you attribute your success?
RB: When I joined National Restaurant Supply, the majority of reps were men. I didn't fear being a woman in a male-dominated industry because I knew I could rely on my colleagues, despite the gender differences. I'm fortunate, because everyone has been amazingly helpful, and I continue to grow every day.