TriMark Foodcraft's Danny Eller built his foodservice career from the ground up. He started by running the dealership's UPS shipping division, then learned the smallwares side of the business before moving to the front counter in the company showroom. It was at that stage in his career when Eller became familiar with foodservice equipment.
It was Eller's consistent evolution as a foodservice professional that helped him get the comprehensive industry education that helps drive his success as a project manager and dealer sales rep, for TriMark Foodcraft. "Working at TriMark Foodcraft is the only job I've ever had," Eller says.
Along the way, Eller adopted a relentless approach to customer service that has served him well as his client base has evolved to mostly chains from mostly independent operators.
FE&S: How has the business changed since you first started?
DE: Today, there is more volume and less profit.
FE&S: Is it possible to please all of the people all of the time?
DE: We like to think we can do this. I work with a sense of urgency with every call. I treat every situation like a 9-1-1 call, whether it's a big job or small one.
FE&S: What is unique about servicing chain restaurants as opposed to independents?
DE: The main difference between the two is that chain accounts will build a lot more locations than independents. Sometimes I will deal with three chain locations coming together in one week's time. I'm attuned to the continual evolution of the chain business. I've become an active participant in testing and rolling out equipment for new menu items as well as smallwares replacement.
FE&S: Why is maintaining a good base of product knowledge important?
DE: Having superior product knowledge allows me to steer customers in the right direction. I ask questions. I also utilize Piedmont Natural Gas' extensive test kitchens. Here, I can put different brands of equipment side by side and compare them.
FE&S: Describe your approach to solving challenges that may come up during any given project.
DE: If something comes up, we take care of it. Whatever it may be, we will get it fixed. I solicit opinions from the operation's owner as well as general or sub contractors involved with the issue. I also look to my past experiences and consult with people in the office. I like to have more than one set of eyes to fix potential problems.
FE&S: What's the key element in developing a good working relationship with your customers?
DE: Good service and a good price are important. I make sure I'm available to customers. Product knowledge is invaluable. I also convey a sense of urgency to customers, vendors and people within my office.
FE&S: What are some examples of unique ways you have helped customers research new products?
DE: When operators roll out a new product, we research equipment that can help them execute the menu most effectively and provide the best quality product for their customers. They will provide parameters of the new menu item and I will research it with vendor partners. Then I will arrange for the customer to test the piece of equipment either in a test kitchen, their own kitchen or a test store.
FE&S: What advice would you give someone just starting in the business?
DE: People new to this business need to start from the ground up. They need to know all about equipment, how the drafting department is run and the nuts and bolts of this industry. There is a lot to learn. I've been in this business 25 years, and I still learn something new every day.
FE&S: To what do you attribute your success?
DE: I'm successful because of the people that surround me in the office. Everyone here works as a team. There is not just one person that makes this ship run. Customers may only know my name, but it is every department that helps make a transaction, and a customer's business, successful.