Kristin Sedej, principal and owner, brings a strong operational background to S2O Consultants by drawing on her extensive hospitality experience as well as her in-depth knowledge of all facets of the foodservice design industry. She holds a BS in Hospitality Management from Roosevelt University and is a senior associate member of the Foodservice Consultants Society International. Kristin began her career in food service management. After gaining hands-on experience in the industry, she joined Cini-Little International and quickly became known for her personal drive, ability to learn quickly and strong personal skills. She, along with fellow S2O partner Harry Schildkraut, left the company to form Schildkraut, Schroeder, Sedej & Associates in 2003. After that firm was dissolved in 2008, Kristin and Harry formed S2O Consultants and continue to provide a broad range of specialized foodservice consulting services to the sports, healthcare, corporate, education and hospitality industries. Kristin serves the Chicagoland area by providing pro-bono work for the United Methodist Church in Barrington, Ill., the Ronald McDonald House in Chicago and the Salvation Army Recreation Center in Chicago. She enjoys traveling with friends and her two children.
FE&S: What keeps you working in the foodservice industry?
Kristin Sedej: I like the challenge and the fact that no two days are ever the same. So I learn something new every day. I know it sounds cliché but that’s the truth. There are so many moving parts in the chase for the perfect project that things are never dull. Deciphering the problem, generating a solution and translating that to those who build it is very satisfying.
FE&S: Who was the person that influenced your career most?
Kristin Sedej: My partner Harry Schildkraut. His depth of knowledge, generosity in sharing, encouragement when I was out of my comfort zone and the confidence in himself to allow me to grow have been instrumental in my success.
FE&S: What’s the most important lesson Harry taught you?
Kristin Sedej: Do it right. Take the time to eliminate mistakes. Be thoughtful in what we do. And ask questions about what you don’t know.
FE&S: If you were not working in foodservice, what would you be doing?
Kristin Sedej: I don’t really know. My plan was to go into upper level management in restaurants. And then I met a designer and when I came across this profession I knew immediately it was what I wanted to do when I grew up. So I made it happen.
FE&S: What is one of the most important lessons you learned as a new designer?
Kristin Sedej: Be honest and expect honesty in return. I say that because honesty is the core of all relationships and this business is relationship driven. From clients to factories to reps, you can’t do this alone. So by being honest myself, and seeking that out in my business partners, hopefully what the end user will receive from us will be of much higher quality.
FE&S: You are very involved with FCSI both on the local and national level. Why do you make such a commitment of time and energy?
Kristin Sedej: I think it is a win-win situation. We have a small company with a home office base, so I don’t have a sub-culture to deal with. As a result, being around people that do what I do and learning from their experiences helps me become a better designer. I have friends that understand what I do, which is helpful and makes this a great social outlet, too. The fact that you can combine the two is really meaningful. Also, I like doing my part to make the industry more welcoming and inviting to newcomers.
FE&S: What do you look for in a business partner?
Kristin Sedej: Transparency. Work ethic. Confidence in themselves and their ability to let their partner grow. Trust that we are both working toward the same goals without having to micromanage each other. Open communication. The ability to express displeasure and not have that turn into drama. This applies to people inside and outside of our organization. I try to surround myself with people who are really going to try to do the right thing, even when it is difficult.
FE&S: Knowing what you now know, would you still pursue a career in foodservice?
Kristin Sedej: Absolutely. It is a nice fit for me. It has allowed me to accomplish my professional goals without ever getting bored.
FE&S: If I were planning a career as a foodservice consultant, what advice would you give me?
Kristin Sedej: I would suggest working in operations for a while to develop an understanding of the nature of foodservice. Some people think you can bring someone in that knows drafting or CAD and teach them foodservice. But my thought is that you won’t be able to solve their problems unless you know what they are going through. Foodservice is a different animal from other industries.
Click here to read part one of the interview with Kristin Sedej.