After graduating from Mississippi State University in 1991 with a business and management degree, Jay Campbell began his search for a full-time job.

jay campbellHis mother, who worked as a foodservice supervisor for more than two decades, mentioned that a Memphis, Tenn. foodservice equipment dealer was looking for a salesperson.

He drove to Memphis for the interview and then went back to Mississippi State and basically started working, Campbell recalls. He made his first sale selling supplies to his fraternity.

Two years later, the company went out of business, and Campbell transitioned to a sales job for a Fortune 500 company. Several years after that he returned to the foodservice equipment industry, where he remained for eight years until he decided to pursue his real estate license.

It was the Great Recession that lead him back to selling foodservice equipment for a third time. At that time, his wife was starting a catering career and Campbell desired a steady job. He’s remained with Hotel & Restaurant Supply for the last 10 years.

Q: What goes into determining the right equipment for a specific operation?

A: Hopefully, you have experience and knowledge to know if customers are going down the wrong path, and then you can steer them to something better. Budget factors into it, and it’s also about listening to the customer. However, if you have other options that are a better fit, you have to speak up.

Q: School foodservice often feeds lots of customers in a fast window. What’s the secret to equipping these operators for speed without compromising food quality?

A: It’s based on customer constraints, knowing what’s new in the industry and if you think it’ll work in their situation. There have been many changes since I came into the industry in 1991. It’s important to know users’ limitations. If not trained properly, certain users, managers and staff will ignore equipment like a combi or not use it to its full potential. You have to see the sale through and follow through to make sure they’re doing what they should with equipment.

Q: In addition to schools, you also work with some restaurants. What’s one lesson schools can learn from restaurants about designing or equipping an operation?

A: They have to figure out how to do more with less space. Schools have less time to serve, so they need to work on efficiencies and flows. Students want more variety, so they need more equipment or units that are more versatile to accommodate more products.

Q: How has the industry changed for the better?

A: I remember my first years in the business, visiting customers with a binder of catalogs that weighed 20 to 30 lbs. I had one arm longer than the other. Now with quoting and project management software and smartphones, you can access everything you need to on-site. It has become a lot easier.

Q: What excites you most about the future of the foodservice industry?

A: Technology excites me, with newer ovens coming out that allow people to do more with less. There are now opportunities to have a kitchen that creates great products in a short period of time without a ventilation hood.