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Industry Service Award: Scott Hester

Scott Hester
Vice President
RSI—Refrigerated Specialist Inc.
Mesquite, Texas

No. of Years in Industry: 34
Industry Affiliations: Commercial Food Equipment Service Association, Texas Restaurant Association (member)
Awards: NAFEM 2011 Doctorate of Foodservice Award; Manitowoc Foodservice Rising Star Award
Volunteer Endeavors/Initiatives: CFESA Board of Directors, NAFEM/CFESA Liaison Committee, FER Multiunit Foodservice Equipment Symposium presenter, 2011 and 2012

Scott Hester, v.p. of RSI—Refrigerated Specialist Inc. and principal of Refrigerated Equipment & Leasing and Cooking Equipment Specialist, has spent the past 34 years improving repair services for the foodservice equipment industry.

He has served in various leadership roles through the Commercial Food Equipment Service Association as well as the North American Association of Foodservice Equipment Manufacturers/CFESA Liaison Committee. Honoring his substantial contributions, FER has named Hester the winner of the magazine’s Industry Service Award for service agents. Winners in this category are chosen with the input of CFESA.

Hester joined Mesquite, Texas-based RSI after graduating high school in 1978. His brother, Marvin, had just launched the refrigeration repair service company a few months earlier.

“This was literally the summer job that never ended,” Hester says. “I thought I would work for my brother for the summer and then go to school, but I never looked back.” 

Restaurant equipment repair service was booming in the Dallas/Fort Worth area at the time. The team kicked into high gear working on the development side for leading restaurant chains such as Steak & Ale, Bennigan’s (at the time, both chains were part of what became Brinker Int’l.), Luby’s and T.G.I. Friday’s. In fact, he says, the area remains the capital of casual dining in the country and many chains use it to test restaurant prototypes.

Building on success, the brothers expanded RSI to include stainless welding and repair services for beer draft systems and frozen beverage machines. In 1980, they joined forces with their brother-in-law, George Knight, who serves as construction manager. Five years later, the brothers started an ice machine leasing service called Refrigerated Equipment & Leasing. 

Another key highlight came in the early 2000s when the team created a sister company, called Cooking Equipment Specialist, which focuses on hot-side equipment repair services.

“The industry was beginning to change then and now 90% of CFESA members do hot and cold repair service,” Hester says. “It was part of a big industry-wide transition to consolidate—everyone from restaurant chains to manufacturers to dealers to representatives and likewise in service. We’ve mirrored that transition.” 

Currently, RSI is 64 staff members strong and provides services from equipment maintenance and repair to full kitchen installations with a focus on retrofit projects.

When asked about his first adventure into serving the industry, Hester recalls a meeting at a CFESA conference in 2000. A few members of the association’s education committee approached him and asked if he would help develop a refrigeration training program. 

“I was the opposite of a typical CFESA member,” he remembers. “They were all hot-side repair guys and I was everything on the cold side.”

He accepted the committee’s challenge and began working on the project with Jean Choquette, a CFESA past president and service agent in Canada. Once the group wrote the training curriculum, Hester developed a four-and-half-day course and taught it to classes of about 15 students for the first five years. An RSI development-team trainer has since taken over the post. 

Looking back, Hester says, teaching a new curriculum for the first time to a group of peers was daunting. He had experience training his staff at RSI—the company’s growth in the mid-’90s led him from performing repair services in the field to running the service department—but this time the whole industry was watching. 

“I had a lot of good feedback and a lot of compliments but during the initiation of it, I had a real fear of going down in flames,” he laughs. “But it all turned out great.” 

While teaching the training course, Hester became a member of the CFESA board of directors in ’01. He served as the group’s president from 2010-’12 and currently holds the title of immediate past president.

He also has participated on the NAFEM/CFESA Liaison Committee since ’05, except for the two years he was assigned elsewhere by the current CFESA president. Additionally, he has given presentations on water filtration and ice machines at FER’s Multiunit Foodservice Equipment Symposiums in ’11 and ’12. 

Hester says RSI’s success, along with his two invaluable partners and management team, has afforded him the opportunity to volunteer, especially when he was CFESA president, which required “traveling like a rock star,” (but without the fancy tour bus).

He adds that volunteering has many benefits. For one, more people in the industry are aware of RSI and its services, resulting in his phone ringing. “If you help, help comes back,” he says. 

He also has learned a lot about the industry. “I brought things I learned home to my business and in the way that I handled people, whether they were an employee, customer or vendor,” he says. “It helped me to focus on what has turned into some real rocket-ship growth for the company in the last decade and a half.”

Overall, Hester says volunteering has taught him humility. “It’s good to work with these guys; I’ve learned a lot and it’s rewarding,” he says. “I don’t think I would do anything else if I did it over again.”

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