DSR of the Month

Profiling the industry’s most accomplished foodservice equipment and supplies dealer sales reps. Only one will go on to be named DSR of the Year.


Reflecting Back: 2021 DSR All-Stars

Headlined by the feature profile of 2022 DSR of the Year Marcus Calverley, this issue of FE&S shines a spotlight on some of the industry’s best and brightest sales stars.

There can only be one standout DSR of the Year, of course, but that individual is selected from among 11 peers featured as FE&S DSRs of the Month during the previous year. They’re a diverse group of reps, some being long-time industry veterans and others relatively early in their careers. But all share two common traits that make them stand out: They love what they do, and they bring their A game every day for their customers, their companies and their supply chain partners. Here, as part of our annual celebration of the industry’s dealer sales professionals, we check back in on the class of 2021 DSRs of the Month All-Stars and offer fresh insights on the keys to their success.

January 2021 DSR of the Month

Zack Benson vertRobert “Zack” Benson

TriMark USA FoodCraft/South

Gaining depth of experience early in his career has made a big difference for Robert “Zack” Benson, today a national accounts pro at Winston-Salem, N.C.-based TriMark USA FoodCraft/South. Before moving into sales at the company, which he joined in 2011, Benson worked his way through installation and warehouse positions. The knowledge and perspective gained during those stints, he says, along with a restaurant job during college, help make him a better, more effective salesperson.

But while that background laid a strong foundation for his success, Benson’s ambition, attention to detail and hands-on approach to securing and servicing key accounts are what really set him apart. A self-proclaimed Type A personality, he stays personally involved in all aspects of projects, from building designs to maintaining regular communication with all project partners to ensure he’s up to date and aware of what’s happening in real time. He’s also begun installing a Wi-Fi/Bluetooth-operated camera system at all job sites, making it easy to see and understand project status in real time and share images, video and status updates with everyone involved.

Benson’s drive and perseverance ultimately helped him land his biggest account, Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers. Upon hearing from a colleague that chain leadership was unhappy with how several recent equipment installation projects had gone, Benson traveled to Raising Cane’s headquarters in Plano, Texas, secured a meeting and, after a single-installation test run, won the account. While he maintains a few other smaller accounts, Raising Cane’s now accounts for 90% to 95% of his volume.

In the current environment, Benson feels the biggest change the industry can and should be making is for dealers to increase their warehouse space and inventory to combat supply chain delays — a move he says FoodCraft had already started making pre-pandemic. And as for equipment innovations, the biggest game changers he sees are small tweaks that make traditional items better. “Smaller changes are making dramatic differences,” he says. “Things like cleaning systems within new ice machines are the types of innovations that are most needed and most appreciated.”

February 2021 DSR of the Month

Jeff Miller BJJeff Miller

B&J Peerless Restaurant Supply

Innovative Foodservice Group

When Jeff Miller joined Kansas City, Kan.-based B&J Peerless Restaurant Supply in 2003, he brought with him 15 years of experience in hotel food and beverage, years during which he gained skills in people management, purchasing, kitchen design and coming up with solutions to everyday operational challenges. Today, those skills — combined with a lifelong love of cooking, product knowledge absorbed over nearly two decades at B&J Peerless and a collaborative approach to problem solving — deliver value to customers and create loyalty.

Even during the pandemic, his sales held steady as he helped his customers, which include a variety of local chains, pivot to off-premises business. While sales of china, flatware and glassware declined, demand for items such as prep tables, food-processing equipment and anything to make preparing and packaging to-go items easier and more efficient spiked. And Miller says that despite the challenges, the pandemic forced many operators to think differently about their businesses and embrace new strategies. “Some said they weren’t experts in to-go sales when the pandemic started, but they are now,” he told FE&S. “And they report their profit margins are going up. Many feel they will have more business in the future because they are now better at expediting the to-go orders.”

In addition to supporting off-premises sales efforts, Miller advocates for operators plagued by ongoing labor shortages and rising costs by staying on top of innovations and advancements in equipment that can help ease those pressures. Ventless and programmable items, in particular, are game changers, he says. “Traditional hoods have gotten so expensive,” he notes. “And thanks to technology advancements in today’s equipment, you can quickly train a less-skilled person to do a job well and do it consistently.”

The biggest challenge Miller now faces is actually getting the items customers want in a timely manner due to supply chain delays. And the only cures for that, he says, are ordering as far in advance as possible, nurturing great relationships with supply-chain partners, and expecting to put in plenty of extra hours trying to solve inventory problems.

March 2021 DSR of the Month

Dov Soiefer hsDov Soiefer

Culinary Depot

For much of Dov Soiefer’s 15-year career at Monsey, N.Y.-based Culinary Depot, he was a successful retail “showroom guy.” Learning by doing and eventually by training others, over the years he acquired what customers and co-workers describe as an encyclopedic knowledge of foodservice equipment and supplies. But even more importantly, Soiefer became skilled at applying that knowledge to meet individual customer needs, finding the right products for the right applications and gaining trust.

His natural affability and successes in the showroom led him to agree to step away from his salaried retail position in 2019 and into the street as a commissioned salesperson. While he has described the transition as scary, it’s been a good one. Despite challenges presented by the pandemic, his book of business continues to grow, and earlier this year he was promoted to team sales leader in recognition of his focus on training and leading other reps.

Soiefer says that, throughout his sales career, he’s learned the importance of communicating consistently and effectively with customers and project partners, and of being highly organized. To that end, he relies heavily on technology, especially Culinary Depot’s customer relationship management system.

In addition to product knowledge, which he continually works to build by studying, visiting test kitchens and soliciting customer feedback, he says another key to his success is the fact that he doesn’t go in looking for a sale. Rather, he looks for opportunities to provide solutions and build relationships. A case in point from his retail days: A school foodservice operator came in looking for six convection ovens, but after discussing menu specifics and volume requirements he steered the operator instead to two combi ovens that would meet those needs much more efficiently and pay for themselves within a year. “Once you build that trust, where the customer walks out with what they actually need and not what they think they need, then they start coming to you to ask for other items,” he notes.

April 2021 DSR of the Month

fes2104 DSR JustinFreemanJustin Freeman

Bargreen Ellingson

Starting at age 12, washing dishes at an independent restaurant near his home in northwestern Montana, Justin Freeman has forged a lifelong career in the foodservice industry. In his early 30s, after nearly 20 years working in and managing restaurants, he joined a small dealership as a sales rep handling everything from specifying to design-build to acting as general contractor for a diverse group of clients. When a move in 2011 took him to Seattle, Freeman approached Tacoma-based dealer Bargreen Ellingson for a job. He immediately accepted their offer of a sales position in the company’s downtown Seattle office where, within three years, he’d become a key player in the contract department.

Today, Freeman remains with Bargreen Ellingson but is back in Montana where, since 2019, he’s built a strong and growing base of both street and contract business.

Without a doubt, Freeman’s restaurant operations experience helps shape his success as a dealer sales rep. He’s comfortable in commercial kitchens. He knows the players, the language and what clients are asking for, even if they don’t ask for it directly. And he takes a hospitality-driven approach to his work, one focused not on being a salesperson, but on being a valued resource and friend. That starts, he says, with respecting everyone, from dishwasher to chef to owner. And it means quickly developing an understanding of what each customer’s needs and financial limits are. It ends, he adds, simply with trying to take care of people.

“I intend to be here for a long time. I want my customers to like me, respect me and trust me 10 or 15 years from now,” he says. “To have that healthy relationship, I need to take care of them and show I’m not concerned about simply making one sale.”

May 2021 DSR of the Month

fes2105 John Roche IMG 9228 hsJohn Roche

Singer Kittredge

Shortly after graduating college in 1984, John Roche found what would turn out to be a long-term home in the foodservice equipment and supplies dealership world. Working at the time for a startup company owned by his father-in-law, he quickly found he enjoyed the job — serving a variety of customers, being in the field, shepherding projects and always learning.

Seven years ago, Roche joined Agawam, Mass.-based Kittredge Equipment Co. as project manager and sales consultant. He sells the full product line, from smallwares to heavy equipment, and serves an account base made up primarily of schools, higher education, business dining, healthcare and assisted-living facilities.

He’s reached his level of success by staying focused on the basics of communication and building trust. That starts, Roche says, with drilling down to determine customer needs first and then researching the best possible solutions to meet those needs.

Communicating with and tapping the support networks available to him and his accounts, both at Kittredge and through supply chain partners, are also key elements of Roche’s success. That’s especially true for project management. “We are responsible for many elements of a job, so we have to communicate with many people. That starts within our own company,” he says. “Many different departments play critical roles in successfully managing a job, as do local manufacturers’ reps. You have to talk to a lot of people and be proactive.”

June 2021 DSR of the Month

Lewis Beville hsLewis Beville

Amundsen Commercial Kitchens

The decision to make a job change back in 1998 led Lewis Beville into what’s since become a rewarding career in the foodservice equipment and supplies industry. He built a foundation in the business first at a Texas-based dealership where he worked for a decade before joining Amundsen Commercial Kitchens in late 2018. Today, he’s an estimator and project manager for Oklahoma City-based Amundsen, serving a Northeast Texas territory and specializing in the school foodservice segment.

It’s a segment, Beville says, that, despite predictions of saturation, continues to grow. “We’ve been told for years that the school market is going to be built out, yet in a market like Texas I haven’t seen that,” Beville told FE&S. “My business is driven from housing starts, so once you start building another area, the need for schools arises.”

It’s also a segment that’s seen a tremendous amount of change, with old-school cafeterias giving way to attractive, flexible dining rooms and technology and automation dramatically changing kitchen operations. Such advancements provide operators with significantly greater control and consistency, says Beville, but also add new training challenges to ensure customers fully understand how to properly use the equipment. Initial post-install demonstrations are typically condensed and can be overwhelming, he admits, so he routinely goes the extra mile to coordinate additional training sessions led by manufacturer reps to help ensure that operators are getting the best results possible from their new equipment and properly using it to meet their needs.

Balancing the various interests involved in projects, particularly in publicly funded schools, can be challenging, Beville notes, but he strives to approach every scenario with a win-win mindset. Satisfying all parties, he says, requires consistent, open communication and strict attention to detail to help ensure “get-it-right-the-first-time performance.”

“It’s important to identify inconsistencies in plans or specs early in the process,” Beville says. “A lot of things we would notice as foodservice people might not be picked up on by the other trades we interact with on a job. And the sooner you can identify them, the better it is for everyone involved.”

July 2021 DSR of the Month

Gary Lynd Kamran and CompanyGary Lynd

Kamran and Co.

Gary Lynd came into the equipment and supplies sales world just three and a half years ago, but he’s no newcomer to the foodservice business. Prior to joining Santa Barbara, Calif.-based dealer Kamran and Co., he spent more than 40 years working in foodservice operations. His career path led him from washing dishes in high school to eventually owning and managing several casual-dining restaurants in the Santa Barbara area.

Ready for a lifestyle change, in early 2019 Lynd accepted an outside sales associate position with Kamran, and he’s never looked back. He’s parlayed his knowledge of foodservice operations and critical people skills developed during his years as an operator into a promising sales career, serving clients ranging from restaurants and hotels to casinos, universities and senior living facilities.

As a relatively new rep, Lynd says one of his biggest challenges is learning as much as possible about all of the newer equipment available today, and he taps manufacturers’ reps and plenty of YouTube videos to increase his knowledge. But continually learning is a challenge that excites him. “Where I came from, the equipment package was pretty basic — a flattop, a cook-and-hold oven and a few more items,” he told FE&S. “There are more options available today. Take, for example, a combi oven. They weren’t around when I first started, and they are a good example of how progressive things have become. They’re great for speed and versatility.”

Also exciting in this new chapter for Lynd is the opportunity to stretch beyond his traditional restaurant kitchen comfort zone and participate in big projects in segments such as casinos, universities and resorts. He’s currently working on a new property being developed within an iconic hotel property in San Diego, for example. And new emerging segments, such as ghost kitchens, are keeping him engaged. “We’re doing a lot with ghost kitchens,” Lynd notes. “The idea of multiple operators working out of a central kitchen is intriguing. I love what I’m doing.”

August 2021 DSR of the Month

Milessa Jannik Ace MartMilessa Jannik

Ace Mart Restaurant Supply

When Milessa Jannik decided to trade a financial sales position at an investment firm for a showroom job at San Antonio, Texas-based Ace Mart Restaurant Supply, she had little knowledge of the foodservice industry or equipment dealerships. But something about the opportunity appealed to her, and over the past 11 years Jannik has proven that she was right to follow her instincts. She has established herself as a highly effective sales rep both in the showroom and, as of a transition four years ago to outside sales, as a senior key account consultant.

Central to Jannik’s success has been her eagerness to learn and to identify opportunities to add value by developing deep product knowledge of equipment in general and of smallwares in particular. Using experience and knowledge gained while working in the showroom, she made it her mission to become a smallwares specialist. She has since become the category’s go-to person for customers and associates within Ace Mart, alike.

As a key account specialist, Jannik says she now spends 90% of her time serving current customers and the balance on pursuing new business and conducting site visits. Since the pandemic, more of her time is spent in virtual meetings and on the phone, both of which she prefers to email.

That personal approach applies to site visits as well, during which Jannik makes a point of communicating not just with management but also with staff. “Approaching a client visit this way really shows the decision maker that I understand and care about their team too,” she told FE&S. “The team likes to see you, and when you show them you understand what they do, they realize not only that you can help them but that you care about their business and not just making a sale.”

September 2021 DSR of the Month

HeidiOstbergHeidi Ostberg

Rapids Foodservice Contract and Design

Heidi Ostberg started strong when she joined Rapids Foodservice Contract and Design’s Twin Cities office five years ago, and her book of business has grown significantly since then, exclusively through referrals. The roster of accounts she services is diverse, ranging from hotels and restaurants to colleges and healthcare facilities, and for each one she delivers the full package: experience, knowledge, creativity and a passion for seeing projects through from start to finish.

In Ostberg’s case, the full package is full indeed. Prior to joining Rapids, her background included studying design and architecture in college; preparing shop drawings for a stainless-steel fabricator; serving as a design specialist for another E&S dealership; working on restaurant projects during a stint at an architectural firm; designing and, with her husband, building much of her own home. “When it comes to things like electrical, mechanical and plumbing, I have seen it and done it,” she told FE&S. “I’m a salesperson too; you must know what you are selling and know the detail of the equipment. My projects are design-driven first, and this plays into everything I do.”

To keep her product knowledge sharp and stay on top of industry developments, Ostberg relies heavily on manufacturers’ reps and follows companies and rep groups on social media. She educates herself through “deep-dive” research to be able to present customers with the best options. And she’s a stickler for details, especially enjoying projects in which she can take the architect’s plan of the shell and design and equip the interior with the myriad elements required to create a foodservice establishment, from complex kitchens and bars to the front of house.

With a focus on problem prevention and trust building, her approach includes poring over MEP drawings to ensure all plans meet the specific requirements of the kitchen equipment. And she collaborates with architects and engineers to coordinate final project details, enjoying what she says is the best part of the job: seeing finished projects come to life.

October 2021 DSR of the Month

Matt White BoelterMatt White


After nearly 15 years spent wearing a variety of foodservice industry hats, including working for a distributor, manufacturer and rep group, Matt White hit his stride on the dealer side as a project manager for Boelter. He joined the company’s Chicago office six years ago and has achieved strong year-over-year revenue growth each year since, including during the pandemic.

Like his background, White’s keys to success are multilayered. He leverages the knowledge, experience and contacts gained while working on the manufacturer/rep side of the business to enhance his effectiveness in both sales and project management. He’s proficient in and relies on technology to keep projects on track and maintain vital communications with project partners. And he takes the initiative to keep learning and growing professionally with the specific objective of being able to better serve his customers.

Over the past couple of years, for example, White has focused on building and honing his design skills. “Learning design allows you to bookend a project from front to back,” he told FE&S. “It’s more fun to sit with an owner, learn their needs and be able to draw it out right then and there. It immediately demonstrates your value. They can see you know what you are doing, and there’s some added trust there.”

Typically serving schools, colleges, senior living and corporate dining, White also recently worked on the Delta Sky Club redesign at O’Hare Airport, and he’s grown his reach to service customers well beyond the Chicago market. Multiple projects this spring, for instance, took him to Texas, Colorado and Arizona.

In the current environment, White says supply chain shortages and constant price changes are the toughest challenges. Dealing with both, he says, requires careful, thorough communication with clients to ensure they understand the limitations and ramifications. And now, more than ever, success depends on learning another critical skill: adapting on the fly.

November 2021 DSR of the Month

DSR Linda TellLinda Tell

The Sam Tell Cos.

A smallwares and tabletop sales specialist at The Sam Tell Cos., the Farmingdale, N.Y.-based dealership co-founded in 1956 by her great-grandfather, Linda Tell is now making her own mark in the fourth-generation family business. When a growing interest in sales led her to join the company full-time five years ago, leaving a job as a strategist at a New York City-based advertising agency, Tell started on the ground floor. She knew the basics, of course, having grown up in the business. And she’d done some part-time freelance marketing work for STC while exploring other career options, helping the company to create and manage an online presence.

But like any new recruit, she still needed to put in the time and effort to gain product knowledge and hone consultative sales skills. She took advantage of intensive training programs offered in-house, visited with manufacturers’ reps, studied and dug for information to be able to answer customers’ questions. She leaned on skills developed during her reporting-heavy stint as a strategist, skills she has used to create systems for tracking, managing and providing real-time transparency into account logistics. And she simply learned by doing, in the process growing a base of loyal customers and handling increasingly high-profile, high-volume openings.

Last year was her busiest to date and included working on several high-profile New York City restaurant openings. Juggling those projects during the supply chain crisis hasn’t been easy, Tell admits, but the reporting and tracking methods she’d put in place proved invaluable. “They saved me,” she says, “and gave my customers confidence that the management of their projects was in good hands.”

December 2021 DSR of the Month

Zoomba Kessler 0281Marcus Calverley


Sales and kitchen design may be relatively new to Marcus Calverley, who joined Madison, Wis.-based Kessenich’s parent company, Great Lakes Hotel Supply Co., in 2016, but foodservice has long been a constant for him. He tended bar and managed restaurants for more than a decade before a life-changing bout with cancer and a casual social introduction set him on a new path as a dealer sales rep and designer. In his hybrid role, he’s able to take projects full circle, from initial design all the way through handling warranty issues. And it’s a role in which his experiences as an operator guide his approach to serving clients.

“I understand the headaches poor design can create because I lived it,” Calverley told FE&S. “When I think back to some of the places I used to work, I can see the extra work that poor design would create for me and my crew. And operators and owners are often in a position to be oversold because their focus is on today — on getting the doors open, serving customers and generating money. I know for a fact that happened to me, so I set out to build trust with customers from the beginning.”

At Kessenich’s since last September, and named vice president in February, Calverley has built a personal book of business serving all types of accounts. He especially enjoys helping independent operations succeed. He’s walked in their shoes, after all, and understands the challenges and risks they face. He’s made it his mission to meet their needs and exceed their expectations while saving them money. Sometimes, he admits, that means missing out on a sale. But that’s a short-term risk he’s willing to take to earn their long-term trust.

*Marcus Calverley was named the FE&S 2022 DSR of the Year. Find his full story here.