Wayne Stoutner is president and co-owner of Appliance Installation & Service Corporation (A.I.S.) and Express Commercial Services, LLC, with locations throughout Upstate New York employing more than 40 people and serving roughly 25,000 customers. Wayne has had a lifetime of experience in the foodservice industry. His experience includes working in a restaurant owned and operated by his parents for 30 years. While working his way through college, he worked all facets of the business and gained a keen understanding of the inside workings of commercial foodservice. Wayne graduated from the State University of New York at Buffalo with a B.S. in Business Management and in 2001 earned his Masters of Business Administration (MBA) from SUNY at Buffalo. He is an active member of the Commercial Food Equipment Service Association, serving as treasurer and co-chair of the Membership Services Committee. Wayne helped develop the Installation Training Program for the association and continues to be one of the trainers for that program.

sayswho_background Wayne Stoutner

FE&S: What keeps you working in the foodservice industry?

Wayne Stoutner: I think what keeps me in this industry is the people. Most people in this industry are interesting, intelligent and friendly. Foodservice is a “people business” and I really enjoy many of the friendships and relationships I have built throughout the entire country. Sometimes we forget how we are all in this together regardless of whether we are a food supplier, equipment provider, equipment service agent, manager, server or bartender. Bottom line is that our job is to ensure that people enjoy a satisfying foodservice experience. For this to happen, it takes a lot of positive people with great attitudes. I enjoy being around those types of people.

FE&S: Who in the foodservice industry do you admire most?

Wayne Stoutner: There are many people in this industry doing great things on a local and national level, but when I really think about it, the one I admire most is my mother. My mother Patricia Denman and stepfather Bill Denman opened a small restaurant in the early 1980s in Johnstown, N.Y., which is a small, depressed town upstate. For 30 years, thanks to her people skills, hard work, common sense and strong values, she has been able to guide the business -- aptly named Patricia's -- to where it is today. In my business, I have seen so many mom & pops go out of business, so it makes me proud to see what my mother has accomplished from extremely modest beginnings. I can only hope to be as successful in business and in life as my mom.

FE&S: What was your first job in foodservice?

Wayne Stoutner: My career in foodservice began at the age of 14 as a dishwasher at The Union Hall Inn in Johnstown, N.Y. We didn't have a dish machine and everything was washed by hand in a two-compartment sink. Being the youngest crew member, I enjoyed learning life lessons from the rest of the experienced team. From there, I went to a national pizza chain where I was a shift supervisor at the age of 17. Beyond that, I was a bartender, cook, dishwasher and cleaner at my mother's restaurant, a delivery driver for another national pizza chain, and finally ended up in the restaurant equipment installation and service business.

FE&S: If I were just starting out in the foodservice industry, what advice would you give me?

Wayne Stoutner: I would say you should be prepared to work long, hard days! I would also say to keep an open mind regarding the industry because whether you start out a dishwasher or restaurant manager the opportunities throughout the industry are endless. You might one day be a restaurant equipment sales rep, service technician or magazine writer. This industry touches so many people it can be hard to get away from it!

FE&S: Any interesting hobbies?

Wayne Stoutner: I used to play a lot of tournament foosball traveling across the nation to cities such as Las Vegas, New Orleans, Louisville, Boston and others to play the larger tournaments. Probably my most interesting and obscure hobby was drag racing snowmobiles on asphalt drag strips alongside other snowmobiles, motorcycles and even cars. Going 130 miles per hour on pavement was a little nerve racking...especially on a machine that was designed to be on snow! I currently enjoy more relaxing hobbies such as fishing, golf and snowmobiling whenever time permits.

FE&S: What's the most important lesson you've learned in the foodservice industry?

Wayne Stoutner: When you finally think you have it figured out a curveball will be headed your way. I've learned that the industry is ever-evolving, from customer demands to foodservice concepts to foodservice equipment. In this industry, you can have a lot of successes but you really don't have much time to smell the roses after the success.

FE&S: Knowing what you now know, would you still pursue a career in foodservice?

Wayne Stoutner: I'm not sure I pursued a career in the foodservice industry. It sort of pursued me! I enjoy the diversity of the people in the industry as well as the diversity of the industry itself. The fact that the industry is so far reaching, interesting and challenging leads me to believe that I would pursue it if it hadn't have found me first!