Foodservice has been a career for Emily McClelland since she waitressed for a catering company and baked for a pie supplier at the age of 16. While attending Purdue University’s College of Hospitality and Tourism Management, McClelland served as an intern at C&T Design and Equipment Co. after a recommendation from friend Larry Simonel.
“He studied hospitality in college as well, which has proven to be beneficial in his career,” McClelland says.
After graduating, she was offered a full-time position at C&T as project coordinator. She has served in this position since May 2009. McClelland’s diverse roster of clients includes independent restaurants, bars and other operators.
FE&S: You are known for being thirsty to learn about the foodservice industry. How do you quench your thirst?
EM: When I first started with C&T, I thought gaining product knowledge would be my biggest challenge. Although I was familiar with the equipment, it seemed daunting. I started attending SEFA sales conferences and factory trainings, which were very helpful. I learned so much in just a few days. I now know the quest for product knowledge doesn’t stop. New equipment is always coming out and current models are being improved upon. I find it intriguing how the industry continues to evolve. It keeps things exciting.
FE&S: How do you go about building strong relationships with your customers and supply chain partners?
EM: I really like to support the people who support me, whether that’s the manufacturers or reps with whom I have strong relationships. I consider myself a foodie, and I go out a lot to try new restaurants. When potential customers see that I’m knowledgeable about equipment and the industry, it builds the relationship, which is based on trust.
FE&S: When something does not go as planned on a project, how do you approach resolving the problem?
EM: I try to surround myself with people who can help if there’s a situation where I can’t. I try to take care of issues as quickly as possible.
FE&S: Foodservice design is another area of expertise. In your own words, what is a good design?
EM: I don’t know if there is such a thing. No two projects are ever the same and each has its own unique challenges. The best design is in the eye of the customer, whose goal may be to maximize seats, make changes to the menu and equipment or provide added efficiency to a bar area.
FE&S: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned?
EM: Taking time to further your education really pays off. It may be difficult to afford a few days out of the office and away from projects, but I wouldn’t be where I am without the training I’ve received.
FE&S: What are the most important steps in making sure an operator gets the right piece of equipment?
EM: Talking to my customers about their operations and finding out their challenges is the most important step. Many times, they contact me for a specific reason, whether they’re having trouble keeping up with demand or are contending with unreliable equipment that needs replacing. My product knowledge and factory training puts me in the position to recommend the right piece of equipment based on their needs. Watching operators in their environment is also a great way to see how they work around the kitchen and allows me to help them improve the efficiency of their operation.