When Robert Machacek entered the foodservice industry as a teen working as a dishwasher, it was unlikely that he could see himself designing the type of kitchens he worked in at the time.
This is exactly where he is today, though, after spending 18 years in the foodservice industry, including positions as general and area managers for restaurant companies and most recently as director of operations for a large catering company.
Looking to make a career change, Machacek walked into Hockenbergs Equipment & Supply Co.'s Minneapolis location 12 years ago to learn about the dealer side of the business. After speaking with the general manager, he was offered a position practically on the spot.
After joining Hockenbergs in customer service, he was promoted to an inside sales posistion, retail manager, and then held a number of sales positions before joining the company's contract and design sales department.
Machacek's customers range from independent family-style restaurants to ethnic restaurants to non-commercial operators, such as healthcare. In his role, Machacek will start with a blank slate and work with the operator to design the space, specify the equipment, outline the work flow and more.
FE&S: You like to do your own design work while many DSRs will have designers handle that for them. Why take this approach? What do you like most about it?
R.M.: I enjoy designing and have had success with it. I like being able to start at the ground level and work one-on-one with clients to determine their needs, budget, history, etc. I feel I can really build a relationship in the design phase because it is so personal. This then grows into a sales relationship. Designing and selling a product require different ways of thinking.
FE&S: What role does the proper specification of foodservice equipment play in a good design?
R.M.: Proper specification is about understanding the menu and concept. My customers need equipment that fits into their day-to-day needs, but I need to be aware of the budget and how they will use the equipment. It's important to ask the proper questions so as not to over specify.
FE&S: Customer service is something that's very important to you. How do you make sure your customers are serviced properly?
R.M.: Customer service is the most important part of what I do, so I really value the people I work with. The bottom line is if you're not selling the service, you're only working the next sale. The key is to be honest, thorough, genuinely concerned and make sure to follow up. Integrity is a must.
FE&S: How does your experience on the operations side of the business help you today?
R.M.: Having been on the operations side, I can understand the day-to-day lives of operators. People think hospitality is super lucrative, but I have a more realistic view of the business. I also am very aware of budgets, because I know how tough it is to run these operations.
FE&S: If you weren't a DSR, what would you be?
R.M.: I'd probably be involved in real estate and development.
FES: What's the most important lesson you've learned since becoming a DSR?
R.M.: Earning the respect and trust of your customer base is so important. We're in an industry of price points and price-based selling. Many sales tactics are based on the lowest price, and in order to maintain and grow clientele, you have to offer more than just an affordable price.