5 Questions With Chris Jeens, W.D. Colledge

The president of W.D. Colledge Co. Ltd. takes pride in being the third generation to drive forward the rep group his grandfather formed in 1953.

724 5Questions Chris JeensBW

1. WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO GO INTO THE FAMILY BUSINESS?
It was an easy decision for me. I grew up watching my father, who really enjoyed his work, and I share his passion for the hospitality industry. When I graduated from university and the opportunity was given for me to work in our warehouse, I took it with no hesitation. I’ve done everything from shipping to sales, and every step of the way I could see it’s hospitality that drives us. If we do our job well, it creates a chain reaction: Our channel partner has made a sale, and the restaurant operator has something to create good food that their customers can enjoy. Through being hospitable and building good relationships with our channel partners and operators, we’re creating an environment for hospitality to thrive.

2. HOW ARE YOU FUTURE-PROOFING W.D. COLLEDGE?
Rather than relying on the product-specific training of the past, I knew we needed a place where we could show those concepts creating a lot of buzz in our industry right now. People hear the terms ventless, electrification and automation, but in order to really understand how they work it’s important to experience them in person. To do that, we designed and built a brand-new test kitchen. There are over 100 pieces of equipment that can be moved in and out of operation, lots of storage, and an entire section dedicated to ventless equipment. We call the area STAGE, where the chef is the performer and we’re the stage managers directing the show. It’s a big, open space designed with a lot of warmth. The goal is to bring dealers and operators into a space where we’re creating hospitality, and show them the opportunities available to create good food in new ways.

3. WHERE DO YOU FIND NEW IDEAS?
I’m always learning from my peers in the industry, especially those I’ve gotten to know through my affiliation with MAFSI. The great thing about that association and the people we know there is the absolute willingness to help others. People are happy to share best practices and what worked in their business in the hopes it will work well for yours.

4. THROUGH MAFSI, YOU STARTED THE PODCAST “THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE FOODSERVICE INDUSTRY.” WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ACCOMPLISH WITH IT?
The podcast is the brainchild of our Research, Data and Trends Committee. It was launched in June 2023 by me, Mike Colligon (principal, High Sabatino Associates) and Shaun Gallagher (outside sales, The Schmid-Wilson Group). We wanted a way to highlight trends in the industry and communicate some of the valuable information that’s published each quarter in the MAFSI Barometer in a way that we hope will reach an even broader audience. Our goal is to communicate what’s new or relevant, while having a little fun at the same time.

5. WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR THOSE COMING INTO THE BUSINESS?
Our company’s tagline pretty much sums it up; “Our legacy is integrity in hospitality.” Integrity is standing by your word, which is a good way to operate in any industry. But I feel that notion becomes even bigger in hospitality. Through our work, we’re creating experiences for people, building places where memories are made. The ability to provide “unreasonable hospitality” to make people feel like they had a great experience, no matter what your role is in the business, is something we should all aspire to.

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