Robert “Zack” Benson, TriMark USA FoodCraft/South
Ask a foodservice professional what they like about the industry and there’s a good chance they will say the pace and the fact that no two days are ever the same. Such is the case with Robert “Zack” Benson, who works in national chain account sales for TriMark USA in the dealer’s FoodCraft/South division. Come October, Benson will celebrate his 10-year anniversary with the company. He still vividly recalls his fast start with the dealership and being told to show up for his first day of work with an overnight bag of clothes packed, and then he headed off to Connecticut as part of the install team. That was all it took to get Benson hooked.
Benson went from the install team to the warehouse and counter sales before assuming his current role in 2016. While based in North Carolina, Benson’s book of business takes him around the country working with a variety of multiunit operators, including restaurant chains like Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers.
Q: Your college degree is in political science and you previously ran a landscaping business — neither of which portends a career in foodservice. What drew you to this industry?
A: My mother was Greek, and that side of the family is all Greek. My mother’s uncle started FoodCraft in 1962 to sell foodservice and supplies to the Greek restaurant owners in Winston-Salem. He eventually sold to TriMark in 2000. Still, you could say, I sort of had a foot in the door. And I had seen a lot of people come to the dealership and they really made good lives for themselves. My dad always said we are the architects of our own fate. And I knew the opportunity was there to do well.
Q: How does your background in the dealership — from installer to working in the warehouse to counter sales — shape the way you work with customers and colleagues?
A: Tremendously. Being able to be hands on with any of the products is key in educating the end-user. It helps me make sure the outfit is right. You can look at pictures and read about equipment but knowing how durable it is can only come from touching and feeling it. When you have the volume of inventory that we have at TriMark, there’s so many items out there from which to choose, so to figure out what the customer needs you need to touch it and be a part of it. Working in the warehouse and as an installer gave me that perspective and insight into what the individual members of our team need to be successful.
Q: Describe your approach to building successful relationships with reps, factories and other members of the supply chain.
A: In order to be good at anything, you have to be relatable and make others feel comfortable around you. Nobody is going to call you or want to do business with you if you are a pain to deal with.
Q: How has the pandemic affected the way you work with your customers?
A: The pandemic has been a tragedy for this industry. Fortunately, a lot of my customers have drive-thrus, which has helped them weather this situation. The biggest issue we’ve had is with shipments getting places on time. It’s hard to stay at the normal speed when people are being furloughed and let go because of the economy. Everyone’s staff has been stretched, which makes it difficult to get things done in as timely a manner as you would like. Success comes from the team we have here at the dealership. The reason these clients love our company is 100% because of the team we have here.