After graduating from the University of Connecticut and completing a stint in the military, foodservice was not part of Colin Woodfall's career plan. But while working at a quick-service restaurant to help make ends meet, Woodfall discovered he had a love for the industry. This led to a career spanning more than 30 years on the operator side, which included a partnership in a New Hampshire steakhouse restaurant for 13 years and working with quick-service operators.
Woodfall got to know a dealer and became a partner in his company. When the business dissolved in 2006, Woodfall joined Agawam, Mass.-based Kittredge Equipment Co., where he has hung his hat ever since.
His client roster consists of mostly non-commercial foodservice operators, including colleges, schools, correctional facilities and other state-run organizations.
FE&S: How does your vast experience as an operator help you serve your customers?
CW: I've definitely walked a mile in their shoes, having been in their position. I know what operators are dealing with and understand the necessity of solving their problems as quickly as possible. There are certain things you can only learn when running a restaurant yourself.
FE&S: What keeps you in this industry?
CW: I cannot conceive of myself sitting behind a desk all day. I like that this industry is ever changing. There are always new challenges to overcome, new products and procedures to bring into the marketplace and, most importantly, new opportunities to transform into new customers.
FE&S: Describe your customer service philosophy.
CW: My philosophy is a little bit different. I think of myself as more of a problem-solver than a salesperson. If I get a sale by helping a customer, which I typically do, that is satisfying and rewarding. There are myriad dealers to choose from and it's up to me to prove to my customers that they chose the right person for the job.
FE&S: How do you go help customers solve their problems?
CW: If the situation is caused by equipment failure, the solution is rather simple. The main goal in this case is to get the correct equipment to the operator as quickly as possible within the parameters set by the customer. When the customer says, "Do you have a little time you can spend with me? I have a problem," that is when this job is incredibly enjoyable. There is no one solution for every problem. I have learned the hard way to watch and listen, long and hard, before speaking. I ask the customer what they want to see as the end result of this process. Once we both know what the result should look like, we work together to make it happen. It is not always about new equipment. In most cases, the solution involves better utilization of the equipment, people or procedures that are already in place. This creates a partnership between you and the operator that turns them into a repeat customer.
FE&S: Why is product training important?
CW: I need to be able to give customers the best and most current information available. It's up to me to explain how a product will or will not provide the solution they seek. I try to keep up to date through regular meetings with reps in my area, maintaining files of magazine articles/reviews of equipment groups and attending various trade shows.
FE&S: How has the industry changed since you started?