Sean Farrugia, Account Executive, Great Lakes Hotel Supply Co., Southfield, Mich.
Going back to the age of 12, Sean Farrugia has memories of making the rounds with his dad, who ran a foodservice equipment repair business. “I’d go on service calls with him, so you could say I was dragged into the business,” says Farrugia.
Farrugia realized college was not for him and did a three-year stint at Blockbuster Video. It was following his time at Blockbuster when Farrugia decided to make a career in the foodservice industry and in 1990 went back to his father’s company, where he cleaned and sold used equipment.
“I worked with my dad until joining another dealer in 2001, then came to Great Lakes Hotel Supply in 2015,” says Farrugia. His client base consists of mainly independents and emerging regional and local chains.
FE&S: You work with different kinds of restaurants. How does that broad perspective help serve specific customers?
SF: It helps a lot. I started out doing Coney Islands [hot dog restaurants] in Detroit, and it’s broadened with culinary. People’s palates are different than 5 or 10 years ago. Also, I’ve been exposed to different aspects of kitchens and have trained at factories and at our business. As a result, I have a broad understanding of just about every piece of equipment. It helps that I’m not focusing on just one sector.
FE&S: What goes into writing a good equipment spec?
SF: Finding out the needs of the customer and exactly what they’re doing with that piece of equipment are most important. We have a culinary center at our place, where customers can come kick the tires, so to speak. With my customers, I do a fair amount of new business. This is where you need to show them the way. It’s finding them the best value for the dollar and keeping them happy by quantifying their needs.
FE&S: Describe your approach to troubleshooting a problem.
SF: Make the customer happy first. Being responsive and not letting calls go to voicemail are important. You need to be on top of things and diligent in getting back to customers. Even if I can’t help them myself or make a sale, I get them what they require. I’m not driven by making the sale; it’s more about making the customer happy.
FE&S: What’s the experience you would like customers to have when working with you?
SF: I’d like customers to remember my equipment knowledge, honesty and the ease of working with me as well as my ability to change on the fly. We’re not focused on pushing one product or tied to one rep group or manufacturer. If someone wants a piece of equipment and is focused on one brand, even if I think another brand is better, I won’t push it on them to move our sales. It’s also important to educate them that cheaper products will end up costing more in the long run. I try to open their eyes to the best solution.
FE&S: What’s the best advice you ever received?
SF: Spend time with your family; don’t put off going on a vacation because you have too much work. Because, before you know it, you’ll still be working and not have those memories. Everyone is so busy today, but if you do a good job, then work will always be there. Everyone needs downtime.