Ryan DeSimone, Equipment Project Manager, Bloomin’ Brands, Inc., Tampa, Fla.
What do criminology and foodservice have in common? In Ryan DeSimone’s case, love for one led to passion—and a career—in the other. While DeSimone, equipment project manager for Bloomin’ Brands, Inc., Tampa, Fla., pursued a degree in criminology 16 years ago, he got a job as a waiter to help pay for college.
“It offered quick cash and a flexible schedule,” DeSimone says, “and I worked my way up to an assistant manager position. Though I got my degree, I discovered I loved the foodservice industry and dealing with people.”
DeSimone had relatives in law enforcement and always pictured himself in the field. But his passion for the foodservice industry grew so strong, he passed up an opportunity to join the Florida Highway Patrol to take a management position at an Outback Steakhouse. He’s never looked back.
At Outback, DeSimone learned the front-of-the-house operations as a manager then took on the back of the house as a kitchen manager. From there, he acquired even more responsibility as a regional food technician, making sure all of the chain’s kitchens in his region met company specs in terms of equipment purchasing, food safety, operations standards, etc.
Along the way, Bloomin’ Brands’ director of purchasing Renée Mullen felt the need to brush up on her operations knowledge. DeSimone was tapped for the job.
“I was blessed with the opportunity to retrain her,” he says. “She saw my passion for the business and steered me into the equipment side of purchasing.”
Two years ago, DeSimone made the jump to purchasing. As equipment project manager, he’s part of a team responsible for equipment R&D, sourcing, testing and purchasing new equipment, equipment roll-outs, field support and managing suppliers.
“I now know all our suppliers and vendors personally,” he says. “We build our business on trust, and relationships with our suppliers are really important.”
Just as important to his success and the success of the company is the teamwork that’s fostered on the job. He says Director of Equipment Larry Levine was instrumental in his upbringing in the job and gives Levine credit for much of the sense of team spirit.
“It all starts with your attitude toward the team, and there is a real team behind me. Everyone is very open and has a positive attitude. We actively support each other, and we take pride in our jobs and each other. We have a lot of personal responsibility and have to make our own decisions, but if we don’t know something, we can always ask or get help.”
What DeSimone loves most about his present position is the ability to take what he’s learned about operations on the job to influence how suppliers design equipment for the business. With the company now focused on energy and water usage, DeSimone and the team have been looking at a lot of new technology.
“I like the freedom to be creative and innovative,” he says. “I’ve had the opportunity to work with some brilliant minds to come up with new equipment ideas that not only help our company save energy, but in turn produce better end products. I have the ability to come up with ideas that will affect our operations and restaurants in a positive manner.”
One of the areas DeSimone’s team has been looking into is infrared technology. “Infrared cooking can use less energy and cook faster without sacrificing quality,” he says. “We’ve been challenging our chefs to learn how to use it in creative ways. Most rewarding for me has been working at a company that was willing to adopt my vision of what’s possible, turn it into a CAD drawing and make it a reality. Knowing that the result will have a positive impact on all our restaurants, and maybe even the industry some day, is a great feeling.”
DeSimone hopes that more young people will be as open to possibilities as he was and follow their passion. “Always be positive, friendly and open to change and challenges. Be the kind of person that others want to be around. Remember that it is okay to think outside the box.”
Law enforcement’s loss has been the foodservice industry’s gain.