Dan McDevitt entered the foodservice equipment industry six years ago while on a job hunt after moving to Orlando, Fla., to be closer to family. The small business atmosphere at Restaurant Equipment World (REW) quickly proved a fit for him. “The people are wonderful, it’s refreshing to be able to speak with the owners and see things come to fruition,” McDevitt says.

Dan McDevittThe career path at REW has taken him from handling shipments to stocking the showroom to small interactions with chefs to outside sales and handling larger accounts.

FE&S: Start-up restaurants are often strapped for cash. How do you go about getting these customers what they need while working within these constraints?

DM: Cash with startups is always an issue. My local customers are always on their phones and computers looking at prices posted from the big online sellers. When I put a number in front of them, they say “well, I’m getting this online.” It’s a battle. At this point I look up the number first because I know the email chain is coming.

I want to be competitive, and a lot of clients that work with me now understand the value of having me right there when they need something and that pushes the sale through. I don’t lose a lot to online companies after I push that value. We also get huge help in that value equation from local reps when something goes wrong. You have to value yourself and not always put the bottom dollar first.

FE&S: What’s a key difference between working with an amusement park vs. a standalone restaurant?

DM: The quantities and orders are very different, but in the end the process is similar. They both want you to be there every time they call and they have the same questions, such as ‘Can you get me something like this one piece I saw at this one place,’ and both are always interested in options for products and applications, and ways to improve their customers’ experiences.

Amusement parks are very urgent and need everything yesterday; that can happen with mom-and-pops as well. When they want samples, or something else, we provide that for them. I treat both clients equally.

FE&S: Talk about your work with the nonprofit group Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida.

DM: As a charitable organization, Second Harvest uses some of its funding dollars to obtain new equipment, particularly refrigeration equipment, for churches and local organizations working to feed the homeless and less fortunate. We’ve helped them put new equipment into around 30 different sites this year alone. It’s a very positive experience to be even a small part of people helping people.

FE&S: As someone working in the Orlando market, do you encourage clients to attend The NAFEM Show?

DM: I push everyone to attend, anyone that might have an interest. At the show, they all have my cell number and I encourage them to call me if they are at a booth that might interest them. There is always a positive impact on my business after the show.

FE&S: Do you have an insider’s tip on Orlando hot spots?

DM: Chef Brandon McGlamery is one of Orlando’s top chefs; he owns Luma on Park and Prato, both in Winter Park, and Luke’s Kitchen and Bar in Maitland, Florida. He’s always coming up with new creations with a lot of seasonal products and ingredients. Luma on Park also has the quintessential open kitchen.

For something lively, a great spot to go is Rock & Brews near Celebration by Disney. The Orlando location is the most successful in the nation and it always turns out a good crowd.