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Industry Service Award: Jim Hanson

Jim Hanson
Best Restaurant Equipment & Design
Columbus, Ohio

Years in Industry: 37
FEDA: board member, secretary, treasurer, v.p., president, chairman; FEDA Education Foundation: president, chairman; SEFA: smallwares supplier committee, equipment supplier committee, executive board member, executive board chair.
SEFA Executive of the Year 2011; FER Industry Service Award 2010; Strategic Leadership Award 2009; CFESA Award of Merit 2009; MAFSI Award of Merit 2009; NAFEM Doctorate of Foodservice 2007, Award of Merit & Service 2007-2008; FE&S Young Lion Award 2002; President’s Club 1999; FEDA 1997-2011 Dedication Service Award.
Charitable Causes:
Columbus Homeless Shelter; St. Stephen’s Community House. 

Years ago, when industry veteran and local Foodservice Equipment Distribution Association chapter head Rodney Wasserstrom of The Wasserstrom Co. [winner of an FER Industry Service Award in 2007] told Jim Hanson it was time he gave something back to the industry, Hanson was surprised.

“I really hadn’t even considered that I was ready to participate prior to that,” says Hanson, president of Best Equipment & Restaurant Design, Columbus, Ohio. “But then I spoke to Ray Herrick [FEDA Executive V.P.], who guided me through all of the processes. I cannot say enough about Ray and how valuable his experience, guidance and insights have been.” 

Hanson quickly discovered that he could provide for others what so many in foodservice had given to him. And very few individuals have given more of themselves to foodservice E&S than Hanson, the first two-time winner of an FER Industry Service Award. The Industry Service Award winner in the dealer category is chosen with the help of FEDA.

“When we used to have regional FEDA members meetings back in the early 90s,” Hanson says, “I committed to organize and hold one or two meetings a year. I got to meet and talk with people in our industry that I normally wouldn’t have been able to associate with. Some of us were competitors, but we found that we still had common ground and interests that were non-competitive. We discovered that those discussions had value, and we all came away with something. I also made new friends who were willing to assist me in solving issues should I need to call on them and vice versa.”

Hanson got his start in the industry when Dick Amann, the owner of equipment dealer General Fixtures in Dayton, hired him away from his job at a hardware store. “Dick offered me ten cents more an hour,” Hanson says, “an hourly rate I think I still earn some weeks even now.” 

Hanson started in counter sales and soon got his own smallwares territory. After a few years he ended up in national sales. His eventual business partners, Gene Yosick and Mike Stasko, started in the engineering side of the business, but they both ended up in national account sales at General Fixtures, as well.

They all eventually left General Fixtures and went to work for Wasserstrom, where Hanson became a sales manager for national accounts. It wasn’t too long before the three of them got the itch to start their own business. Mortgaging everything, borrowing on credit cards, and begging from family members, they raised the money to get started and built Best Restaurant Equipment & Design from the ground up. 

Volunteering his time to give back to the industry has helped Hanson reap several benefits.

“Within the leadership positions I’ve held at both FEDA and SEFA (Supply & Equipment Foodservice Alliance), my buying group, I’ve been able to form friendships and alliances that have been helpful in my business, while at the same time serving a need for others in the group,” he says. 

“I cannot say enough about how honored I am to be associated with so many great people in our industry. And the fun part is that this is such a small industry, you really can get to know a very large percentage of the people who make things happen. Through all of the industry networking events every year, my wife Kathleen and I are truly grateful for the friendships that we have formed with so many of the members, vendors and spouses of the groups we are involved in.”

Hanson and his partners have mentored a lot of staff members over the years, often working as a group because their different areas of expertise and strengths complement each other so well. As far as his association work goes, he hopes that he’s setting as good an example as those who went before set for him. 

“Our industry is very blessed with a large number of outstanding leaders,” he says, “both dealers as well as vendors. While I probably have been lax in saying it to them directly, I have been both inspired and guided by many of them throughout the years.”

His advice for anyone thinking about stepping up: Get involved. “As with anything,” he says, “you have to make time for what’s important, and this is important. This is an area where time spent pays back multiple times in dividends, some directly, but much of it indirectly. I would suggest that anyone in our industry try to be more involved. Start small and see if it’s true. Volunteer for a committee. Just call your trade association leader or buying group leader and ask how you can become more involved. It really doesn’t take as much time as it may seem.” 

The foodservice industry is such a high touch business that his personal and professional life blend together sometimes, which Hanson sees as a major benefit.

“If you’re in this business and you aren’t involved, you’re missing out on a huge part of the fun of it—the friendships.”

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