Amanda Janasik’s love for the foodservice industry started when she was 16 and worked as a waitress in high school. After graduating from Penn State with a degree in hotel, restaurant and institutional management, Janasik planned on working her way up in the restaurant industry.
Two years working as a cafeteria manager for a Philadelphia-area contract foodservice provider was all the time it took for Janasik to realize that this wasn’t where she wanted to hang her hat.
So in 2004, she moved to San Diego and joined R.W. Smith. “It was fate, since I could stay in the industry I love and still work with chefs, food and foodies,” Janasik says.
In the last 11 years, she has cultivated a varied client base that consists of mostly independent restaurants, country clubs, hotels and smaller chains.
FE&S: You have a very diverse client base and yet are known for sometimes knowing their history better than they do. How do you keep it all straight?
AJ: It’s all about relationship building. When I started with R.W. Smith, I was in customer service until 2007. Many of the customers I started with then I now see once a week or once a month. It’s fun working on a brand new restaurant opening, but what comes after that, building the relationship, is the important part.
FE&S: As part of your efforts to stay up on the latest industry trends, you are known for meeting regularly with area foodservice professionals. How does this type of interaction benefit you and your business?
AJ: These interactions are about seeing customers day to day and finding out what they’re looking for or how they use a certain product. Chefs are very creative, so learning more about what they’re doing with their menus gives me an idea of the trends in the industry. I also can put this information to use with other customers. I try to meet with as many people as I can, like general managers, food and beverage directors, chefs, banquet managers and directors of housekeeping at hotels. With larger operations, like hotels, I’ll go once a week, since there are more people to speak with. With a single restaurant I’ll visit less often.
FE&S: Based on your experience, what attributes does a good tabletop installation possess?
AJ: A good tabletop always needs to be appealing to the eye, but it’s important to remember that everyone’s taste is different. I try to capture the restaurant theme with china, glass and silver to reflect what the operator is trying to convey.
FE&S: Your background includes working as an operator before joining R.W. Smith. How does that experience help you serve your customers?
AJ: It really helped me when I first started in the business, because I knew the products so well, especially the back-of-house equipment. It also helps me relate to the chefs, since I know their struggles first hand.
FE&S: What excites you about the future of the foodservice industry?
AJ: It’s constantly changing, chefs are so creative and always coming out with new things and there are innovative products that go along with these new ideas. Also, Yelp! and all of the cooking shows on television have cultivated a surge of foodies. Now more people outside of the industry are excited about going out to eat and visiting cool new restaurants.