Working with national accounts for Atlanta Fixture, Jon Jacobs says his favorite part of the job is helping customers save money. This is no surprise because, as a former restaurant owner, Jacobs realizes the importance of the bottom line.
Prior to opening his Mississippi diner in 2001, Jacobs worked his way up the restaurant industry ladder in a deli, starting as an order taker, then becoming a dishwasher and transitioning to kitchen manager.
After leaving to become a restaurant manager for a couple different operations, Jacobs followed his wife, Suzanne, an interior designer, to Atlanta. He joined Atlanta Fixture nine years ago.
FE&S: You are known for developing good customer relationships. Describe your approach to this.
JJ: Winning their trust is important in order to develop a good customer relationship. Everyone has the same tools and resources available to them. It all comes down to making sure the client knows you'll go that extra mile and understand their needs. A client needs to trust that I can meet their needs and solve issues that arise.
FE&S: Saving the customer money is one of your favorite parts of this job. Can you share one scenario where this happened?
JJ: Any time technology can be used to replace actual employees, there is a benefit. Clients can depreciate the value of equipment and use the savings for other means in their operation. An example is using a combi oven instead of a conventional oven. This saves hours of labor, so operators can reallocate funds. Any time I can help out with operational issues or suggest ways of saving money by relocating equipment to save steps, it is a benefit to my client.
FE&S: How has your experience working as a restaurant operator helped you as a DSR?
JJ: When I operated my restaurant, I remember trying to contact my DSR four or five times to order a couple cases of glasses, and he wouldn't return my calls. This bothered me and stuck in my head. As a result, I try to return all phone calls and e-mails quickly. There are months where the number of text messages I receive exceeds my number of phone calls. This is evidence of the way business is changing. It's a lot easier for clients to send a text than have a 10-minute conversation. Today, time is of the essence.
FE&S: What's the most important lesson you've learned?
JJ: Because food and labor costs are set, the only way to make money in this industry is to stay current. When I owned my restaurant, I would tell people that standing still is moving backwards, because everyone else is moving forward. Even if it's not new, give customers the illusion that it's new. As DSRs, we have to help customers make that change.
FE&S: How do you go about handling a project to make sure everyone involved — customer, company and suppliers — comes out a winner?
JJ: It starts with coordination and making sure everyone understands the procedures and time frame. As long as information is free-flowing from all sides, including ours, our clients and the vendors, any detail can be worked out. Postponement, mistakes and damages in freight can be easily accounted for, as long as everyone communicates.