Like many in the foodservice industry, Jacob Thomases first got his feet wet working for a restaurant chain as a teenager. After graduating from San Francisco’s now shuttered California Culinary Academy in 2002, Thomases went right into restaurant management.

Jacob ThomasesJacob ThomasesAfter working in restaurant operations for a number of years, he decided a change of pace was necessary. “I wanted a different work/life balance, as I was getting married,” he says. “I started looking at options and ended up at a dealer.”

He joined Myers Restaurant Supply, and has been there for almost five years.

Q: What goes into developing a good kitchen design?

A: There is no cut and dried answer for that, since it comes down to the client’s needs and understanding of the process. You may have a chef who’s done it all before and knows the brand, size and exactly what they need, which can be easier than working with a client who has never been through the process before. It’s important in all cases to ask the right questions, listening to what they are saying and what they are not saying.

Q: How do you approach writing equipment specifications for design projects?

A: A lot of it is client based. Some chefs have particular demands and brand preferences, and are looking for certain specifications, like with a range line and combi oven. Other times, it comes down to a client’s needs and budget. Then there are times that there are no preferences, and I can go in any direction. In this case, it comes down to my relationship with manufacturers and the reps. We want to ensure clients get the right support from reps and vendors. In a perfect world, it works right every time and turns out perfectly. But in reality, that’s not always the case. Rob Myers, who is son of the company’s original owner, says we do it for the high five at the end of the project or we do it so that the client walks away feeling positive about our part of their project and will give us a future referral.

Q: Design projects often come to the table short on time or money or both. How do you deal with these issues?

A: Some of it is about setting expectations and letting clients know things take a certain amount of time. Doing this in advance helps. It needs to be right first, because they have to live with a project’s end results. Quick will not be as good as right.

Q: There are some specific skills involved in specifying the right piece of equipment for a replacement sale. What are some key factors to consider?

A: It’s not always a like for like scenario. There are so many dealers out there and all kinds of supply chain versions, and operators may not get the right equipment. There are situations where a unit may be in place for 15 years and served its purpose and then there are times where equipment is under specified. The reality is that sometimes it’s price driven. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.” There are many steps and if you miss one it can be catastrophic. Sometimes it’s about learning from your mistakes. One of the great things about Myers is the company’s experienced staff who have been great resources and mentors to me.