Mike A. Miulli has always been in the restaurant business. His schooling in foodservice equipment and sales began when he worked in a Chicago wholesale pizza factory business.
In 1991, he opened up a night club/entertainment business in Hilton Head, S.C. Three years later Miulli moved to Tampa and created a mobile food concession business. “Shortly after, I operated five Chicago-style hot dog stands for Home Depot, even renovating all the trailers and installing the kitchen equipment myself,” says Miulli.
Unfortunately, after opening Italiano’s Market & Deli in 2006, he learned the hard way that some challenges are nearly impossible to overcome. “About a month after opening the Italian restaurant and market, the roads in front were torn up, and sales dropped dramatically for a couple of years,” says Miulli. “Then the rent shot up, and I decided to close shop, selling my equipment on eBay.”
Customer Dan Beltram saw potential in Miulli and offered him a sales position at his dealership. Today his customers include independent restaurants, regional chains, hotels, ALF facilities, churches, concession trailers, delis and c-stores. Also, Miulli’s hobby as a musician and drummer for a local band called Flyte has provided him with the opportunity to develop business with restaurant and bar owners.
FE&S: You have a pretty diverse background as a restaurant operator. How does this help you better serve your customers?
MM: The number one thing that I provide is a user-friendly atmosphere, since owners/operators basically live in their restaurants. It helps that I have experience in design, construction and working in commercial kitchens. Creating a great working environment can be a challenge, as we are dealing with many engineering and mechanical factors that people don’t think about as well as the many aspects of the kitchen and front of house.
FE&S: You are known for being very dutiful and thorough in your follow up. Describe your approach and why you feel it’s important.
MM: I get a lot of client referrals based on the value I bring to each project. I think outside the box in terms of kitchens, and many times this saves my customers money. For example, whenever possible, I throw used and refurbished equipment into the mix. I also focus on customer service. I’m very hands-on and mechanically astute, so I’ll just grab the drill and hang shelves when I need to. I also make it a point to get back to people right away and work efficiently.
FE&S: What goes into writing a good equipment spec?
MM: It’s all about the menu. I need to know what they’re cooking and how they’re cooking it. This ensures I will provide the proper equipment that is the most efficient. I pride myself in being up to date with the latest technologies and energy-efficient cooking options. I like to educate my clients about this, based on my experience paying utilities as an owner/operator. Sometimes, it’s not possible to convince someone that pricier equipment can save money in the long run, but I still provide the information so they can make an informed decision. In the end, it’s all about making the customer happy.
FE&S: How do you keep current on the latest foodservice-related technologies?
MM: I regularly attend webinars and manufacturer rep training. We also have our own test kitchen here at Beltram, so I make a point of checking out new equipment. I read what I can to see what’s out there, since there are new items coming out every day.