I’m in my 43rd year in the foodservice industry, and earlier this year I had the opportunity to reflect on how much equipment and supplies distribution has changed over those four-plus decades. When my father owned a dealership in New England, most operators within our geographic area bought their foodservice equipment and supplies from him. At the time, the only other option was to head off to Boston or New York.

Tom Rochon TriMark United EastTom Rochon, CFSP, Senior Director of National Accounts, TriMark United EastTimes have really changed. Today, thanks to the internet, a foodservice operator can buy equipment and supplies from anyone and anywhere. In order to separate ourselves from the competition on the internet, brick-and-mortar dealers need to create additional value. Having the CFSP designation contributes to that needed leverage.

CFSP stands for Certified Foodservice Professional and it’s an all-industry program administered by the North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers. Many other business professionals in other industries use specialized certifications to elevate the level of expertise they bring to their customers. It represents a level of commitment and education to their quality of service. The CFSP is foodservice’s indication of educated commitment. It shows that we have taken the time to master our profession.

Earlier this year, 13 members of the team at TriMark United East earned CFSP recognition together. The team met together every Wednesday evening for 10 weeks, reviewing 2 chapters of the CFSP study platform each week. Each team member volunteered to read a chapter, create flashcards and provide a summary for the group. It was a great team-building experience that aided in our learning process.

When you’ve been in this industry for a while, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you have learned all there is to know. Once CFSP accreditation is earned, regular education work is required to keep the certification. This standard of requiring continued education keeps us at the top of our game and reminds us that we’re never too old to learn something new.

One of the great things about earning CFSP status is that the process not only fortifies our existing knowledge base, but it fills in gaps we might not know that we had. The curriculum takes the flow of product from loading dock to the table — and all points in between — for all the various operator segments in this wonderfully diverse industry.

This course is complete and leaves no stone unturned. It even provides the ABCs on how to lay out a bakery, which is something our team is not regularly exposed to but now is fully prepared to handle. The course leaves a certified professional fully capable of handling any project of any level. It has provided an industry veteran like me some food for thought regarding when it’s best to specify gas versus electric equipment. I can now confidently stand behind my recommended design knowing that, in the end, the owner will benefit from a design that translates into profits.

The course also covers front-of-the-house education: elements that one might think are unrelated to design, such as lighting. By being able to discuss these areas with my customers, they see me as a partner because I demonstrate an understanding of all of their challenges.

Before, I was just a salesperson with 43 years of experience. Thanks to CFSP, I am now seen as a professional — one that’s backed up by a supporting team of other Certified Foodservice Professionals. How do your customers see you?