Future Foodservice Leaders: Christopher East & Duane Guidry

An interview with Christopher East and Duane Guidry, Co-Head Janitors for Chrane Foodservice Solutions. 

 For a complete list of FE&S's Future Foodservice Leaders see The Future Is Now.

Duane Guidry (left) and Christopher EastNames: Christopher East & Duane Guidry
Company: Chrane Foodservice Solutions, LLC
Title: Co-Head Janitors
Age: East is 35, Guidry is 36
Industry Involvement:Both have been involved with the Texas Association of School Nutrition Industry Committees, participated in assorted Manufacturers' Rep Councils and actively participate in NAFEM.
Years in Foodservice: East: 12, plus various foodservice jobs in college; Guidry: 10, plus assorted foodservice jobs in college
Educational Background: East attended Purdue University and Guidry attended the University of Houston.

What's the most important lesson you have learned?
Guidry: To work at always being a good listener. Whether it's a customer, an employee, an industry associate or business partner, many times we find ourselves really wanting to speak our mind, versus just listening. We are constantly reminded of what we don't know and how much there is still to learn from listening to others. When we do truly listen, we are that much more impactful when we speak."

East: We can't be everything to everyone. So, we've really focused on being truly proficient with a limited number of market segments and a limited number of manufacturers. We're certainly not perfect, nor are we where we want to be yet. But our goal is to be the best local resource in each market segment and each product segment we cover. That, and to not eat a Reuben Sandwich with extra kraut during a long sales meeting.

What's the best career advice you have been given?
Guidry: Treat everyone as a customer. That's obviously the case with our end-users, dealers and consultants. But, we try to treat our manufacturers and employees like customers, too. They have the choice to buy into our approach or the approach of others, and we want to continually earn the business of that "customer." And most importantly, never forget your number one customers at home.

East: There have been several people in this industry who have told me in various forms to make sure there is balance in our lives. We're pretty guilty of at times putting work first, when we should maybe make more time for family or personal growth. In my case, I could benefit from a little more time in the gym versus not. We're getting better and making an effort about making sure we're a little more well-rounded individuals.

What makes you want to stay in the industry?
Both: Let's face it: This is an industry of fun and nutty people. We all have a bit of a screw loose, thus really don't belong in other industries. No two days are the same. And, from co-workers, customers, manufacturers, competitors and industry friends, there are some pretty dynamic and interesting folks we get to interact with and build genuine relationships with. Some of the craziest stories in our lives have been as a result of wild times with the aforementioned folks above.

What attracted you to the industry?
East: I have family in the industry. Foodservice seems to be in our blood and I was attracted to it while attending NAFEM in Dallas a dozen or so years ago. But, when I started my career, I wanted to either make it or take my lumps on my own. Thus, I moved to the Southeast while the rest of my family was either in Texas or California. Once I felt like I had earned enough of a reputation on my own, I was comfortable moving back to Texas.

Guidry: My first job at 15 was in a grocery store. Through high school and college, I worked in other foodservice industry venues and grew to love the instantaneous reward of customer service. While working at a private country club in college, one of the members approached me to consider this industry as a career. From there, I went through the Hilton School of Hotel and Restaurant Management with great interest. The people part of this industry is the greatest aspect, hands down.

What has been your proudest accomplishment?
Both: Second to our families, we are proud of the team of fantastic people we have assembled and the culture we've created. We didn't have a vision on how our team would look five years after starting a business, but it's evolved to something that we and our employees are very proud of and protective of. We've built a team of people that work hard, care about each other and are genuine friends that enjoy each other's company. As we add people to our organization, we carefully screen them to make sure they are the right fit to the team. Each one of our factories think we have a serious screw loose, as do our spouses, but we have fun and get the job done. It seems to work for us.