A veteran of the foodservice industry for nearly 30 years and more than 60 brands, Juan Martinez applies what he learned from his PhD in Industrial Engineering and Ergonomics from the University of Miami to his work in foodservice. As principal of Profitality, a restaurant and foodservice consulting firm, Martinez specializes in both concept design and business management in the realm of operating systems, platforms and brand optimization. Prior to founding Profitality, Martinez spent more than 17 years with the Burger King & Pillsbury Restaurant Group in various roles, from menu, operations and equipment R&D to industrial engineering, supply management, purchasing and concept development. He holds a patent (No. 5,168,354) for a unique drive-thru system. He is a senior member of FCSI.
FE&S: What keeps you working in the foodservice industry?
Juan Martinez: The people and the challenge. This is a fun business that continues to evolve every year; the restaurants that survive will forever evolve to stay relevant and competitive. That’s what makes this industry so exciting.
FE&S: Who in the foodservice industry do you admire most?
Juan Martinez: There are many executives I admire. I recall the late Jim McLamore and his story on how Burger King came to be. He, along with Ray Kroc, came from different sides of the country, but had a similar dream. Many of my colleagues along the way also showed and taught me strong leadership skills, although I admit I am always working on developing those skills.
FE&S: What aspect of your career gives you the greatest sense of accomplishment?
Juan Martinez: Still being in and enjoying the foodservice industry after nearly 30 years. Also, being able to help my clients achieve success in their businesses.
FE&S: If you were not working in foodservice, what would you be doing?
Juan Martinez: Teaching industrial engineering and ergonomic principles at a university. This is truly my passion, and what I often write and speak about. Consulting companies like Profitality strive to help our customers succeed, but as an industry we need to do more to help young people, the future of the foodservice industry, get ready to assume their leadership positions.
FE&S: Any interesting hobbies?
Juan Martinez: My family is my “hobby,” so to speak. As my children grow older—all are over 20 years old now—my wife is insisting that I pick up traveling as a hobby. Working 24/7 makes that a bit challenging, but it is a great aspiration and something we would like to do more of down the road.
FE&S: What do you look for in a business partner?
Juan Martinez: Very simple: trust and the willingness to work hard.
FE&S: Finish this sentence: Nobody knows I...
Juan Martinez: ...play the guitar very poorly. And, that I love boating; just cruising, not necessarily fishing. But then again, I don’t know how to fish. Perhaps if I learned to fish I may like it.
FE&S: When traveling for business, what is one of your favorite pastimes?
Juan Martinez: Spending time in the trenches of restaurants, thinking about ideas to improve the business model and ways to make it easier for the employees to drive the brand promise. Doing this helps the restaurant optimize its investment.
FE&S: What was your first job in foodservice?
Juan Martinez: I was fortunate to be part of the team that pioneered the application of industrial engineering and ergonomics in foodservice more than 30 years ago.
FE&S: Knowing what you now know, would you still pursue a career in foodservice?
Juan Martinez: Knowing what I know today, I would have skipped my first three years in another business and would have jumped right into the foodservice industry after from college.
FE&S: If I were just starting out in the foodservice industry, what advice would you give me?
Juan Martinez: Get involved ASAP! And remember to give back to the industry. It will make you feel a great sense of accomplishment and will create lasting friendships. The foodservice industry really is one big family.