With a 50-year career in the foodservice industry, Jim Richard Sr., princial of PES Design Group, has gone from wanting to be an architect to launching his own c-store design and foodservice consulting firm. His entrepreneurial spirit continues today.
FE&S: How did your foodservice design career start?
JR: I wanted to be an architect. I took architecture classes in college and worked during school as a designer of electronics. After that, I worked as a plumber. I got to know all the trades working in the building process. I was married in the spring of 1968 and started with Leitner Equipment Co. as an architectural draftsman.
Leitner built chain restaurants like Red Barn and Hardee’s. After Leitner, I went on to the Canteen Corporation, which did a lot of in-plant feeding. Later I joined Foodservice Concepts, which was part of the Wasserstrom organization. It was there that I got into the design side.
FE&S: How have you seen the c-store segment mature?
JR: I’ve been designing c-stores since 1990. That was before a lot of people got into foodservice in the c-stores. I worked for a while with Zahn. They were a drug company. So, I thought, what if I took food and drugstores and put them together — you’d have a convenience store.
FE&S: Your son, Jim Jr., joined you in 2013. What role does he play in the business?
JR: When he joined me, we changed the name of the company to PES Design Group. He runs the more culinary side of the business. He designs for colleges and universities and has done several culinary teaching kitchens.
FE&S: How do you continue to add value?
JR: I do a lot of service. I don’t have to go to the sites but I do, pretty much regularly, to check things out and to make sure everything is going well as the equipment comes in. It’s all about communication and friendship. One of my main clients right now I’ve worked with since 1996. There is a trust factor there and there’s friendship.
The other thing that’s very important — and it’s hard to get out of people — is finding exactly what they want to accomplish. A lot of times they just look at you and say, “I just want a store.” You have to talk them through what’s available. Once we know the menu and what they want to do, we can plan the job from there. I always say I’m not a designer, I’m a facilitator of what they are looking for.
FE&S: How would you counsel other designers and consultants to keep up with change?
JR: I would say ask questions of everyone. That means from the president to the maintenance guy — get as much information as you can from everybody in the company. Even on the job sites when you’re talking to construction people, talk to the general contractor and then go talk to the plumber, the electrician. Ask them, How’re things going? Have you got all the information you need? Before you can do any kind of a design, you have to know exactly what’s going on.