Foodservice Equipment Reports
Publisher's Viewpoint

Nice Folks Can Finish First

When we, with the help of many industry people, created FER’s Management Excellence Awards a couple of years ago, ethical standards and practices were high on the list of criteria we established. In fact, the very first criterion in the list is, “Honesty, transparency and integrity in dealing with employees, suppliers and customers.”

So, by design, the six organizations we honor with MEAs this year stand out in part because they have consistently demonstrated integrity in all aspects of their operations. But I think it’s also important to point out that all six also are very, very successful. I don’t think these two qualities are unrelated. 

Chick-fil-A has grown consistently over the decades since its founding by S. Truett Cathy to become the ninth largest restaurant chain in America with sales exceeding $5 billion. Its average unit volume, at nearly $2.85 million, exceeds even perennial leader McDonald’s and may be the highest in quick service.

Smashburger has grown quickly to more than 300 units worldwide and is one of the leading players in the fast-casual, better-burger segment. They are experienced and tough; many Smashburger execs worked at Quizno’s during its rapid growth, including Chief Development Officer David Biederman. But they are keenly aware of the importance of equipment and facilities to the success of their operations and are very good at working with suppliers and their operators. 

The Miami-Dade County Public Schools are often cited as having one of the most progressive school foodservice programs in the country. Part of their success comes from the deep knowledge, creativity and determination of Director of Facilities Tom Holmberg and his team, who work hard to get his operation the best equipment possible.

The Schrack family took Hockenbergs, one of the oldest, continually existing dealerships in the country, from near death in the 1980s to an FER Top 10 Dealer with national scope and sales approaching $150 million annually. The company has almost doubled revenues since 2010 alone. 

Rapids Wholesale Equipment was a small, $5 million E&S catalog house when industry outsiders Joe and Geri Schmitt and Joe and Diane Dodds bought it in 1992. Sales are now $18 million as the families and their growing base of employees diversified into contract sales, cash-and-carry and an unusual—for a dealer—chain facilities contract division.

Scott Reitano spent almost two decades as a manufacturers’ rep before founding his consultancy on the bet that there was a place for a very high-service firm. When you read Reitano Design Group’s profile and see what his customers say, you’ll agree his bet paid off. 

As Beth Lorenzini, our editor-in-chief, notes in her introduction to the profiles of the winners, part of the purpose of the MEAs is to hold up organizations that we hope others will learn from and emulate. One thing I learned once again is that in this business, it’s possible to be both very, very good and very, very nice at the same time. In fact, I’d argue they go hand-in-hand.

Come to our Industry Excellence Awards Gala, Friday, Feb. 20, during The NAFEM Show (details at, and you can meet the winners. We congratulate them all and thank our MEA judges for choosing such a great group of people.

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