Roy Durlewanger, a DSR with the Beltram Foodservice Group, Tampa, Fla., likes stability. That much is evident in his personal relationships, his work history and his commitment — demonstrated often over a period of many years — to his customers.
Durlewanger, FE&S' DSR of the Month for October 2004, spent 13 years in retail management before becoming a DSR, serving as a store manager for Scott's Home & Garden Centers in the Washington, D.C./Baltimore market. “I started working part time in the paint department there when I was 18,” he recalled.
His later move to the foodservice business began with the decision to leave Scott's.
At that time, Durlewanger was visiting Tampa on vacation and a local friend started telling him about Beltram, his new employer. “He finally said, ˜You know what, Roy, if you ever want to get out of retail management there might be an opportunity for you to come down here and sell restaurant equipment."
“I thought it could be interesting,” Durlewanger continued, “though I knew nothing about it. I said, "You know what? I'm going to go ahead and give it a shot.'” In September 1987, he met with Dan Beltram, who told him, "If you've got a sales background, you come down — we'll always make a space for you here.”
Durlewanger put his house on the market and waited three months until it was bought. He got back in touch with Beltram and announced, “The house sold, I'm ready to make the move.'” Dan Beltram looked at him and said, “You're Roy ... who?”
“You listen to your customers more than anything else in sales. They will tell you just about anything that they want done.”
Durlewanger started in Beltram's Tarpon Springs store, where he remained for six months. After getting the lay of the land, he “went out to the sales floor and just started talking to customers as they came in, selling supplies and smallwares.” The nature of the business, he soon discovered, is “customer-oriented. You listen to your customers more than anything else in sales. They will tell you just about anything that they want done.”
After six months, Durlewanger was transferred to Beltram's headquarters in Tampa. There, he worked with experienced DSRs, learning the ropes. He clearly learned a lot. He personally accounted for $1.5 million in sales last year, and expects that figure to rise to nearly $1.8 million for calendar 2004. His travels extend to about 44,000 miles a year. Durlewanger currently handles every type of account, concentrating on outside sales of both equipment and supplies.
Durlewanger is known for looking after the small chains he works with, even as they mature and grow. The key, he said, is that “as they're growing they're also looking to diversify.” One steakhouse chain, for example, has not only grown but also recently added concepts like an Italian restaurant and an upscale chophouse.
Durlewanger also notches a lot of business from replacement orders, which bespeaks the loyalty he engenders in customers. “They realize who we are as a company and that we can continue to serve them even after they open.” Loyalty is earned, he noted, by “staying focused” on customers “and staying in front of them all the time.”
Durlewanger and Cindy, his wife of 32 years — they were high school sweethearts who began dating each other at age 14 — live in Safety Harbor, about 17 miles west of Beltram's Tampa location. They have three sons: John, 29; Brad, 25; and Ryan, 20.