The Many Roles of a Foodservice Manufacturer's Representative

WRITTEN BY: Pamela Hilliard Owens, M.Ed.

A foodservice manufacturer’s representative is a multi-faceted professional who acts as a liaison between the many businesses and institutions that buy restaurant equipment and the vendor or manufacturer he or she represents. There are several types of commercial and non-commercial customers that a foodservice rep deals with daily: restaurants, hospitality institutions, catering companies, recreational environments, corporations, and nonprofit organizations. An effective foodservice manufacturer’s rep is a valuable member of the foodservice industry because of the knowledge and implementation of the following five areas:

  1. Customer Relationships: Building relationships with customers entails learning and applying as much as possible about the budget, food specialties, goals, business operations, supply chains, and challenges of each customer.
  2. Trends in the Industry: A foodservice manufacturer’s representative must keep up-to-date on all of the food trends, foodservice equipment and service offerings, competitors, and pricing structures.
  3. Technical and Technological Data: In order become an effective consultant for customers, foodservice reps need to be competent in all technical and technological areas that affect the foodservice industry, including developing specs sheets, working with contractors, and the use of electronic software and hardware in the field and in warehouses and storage facilities.
  4. Marketing: A foodservice manufacturer’s rep often acts in a marketing role; as a specialist and facilitator between the customers and the manufacturers. Market segmentation is a continuing trend in the foodservice industry, and many reps focus on one area or market group, while others with smaller geographic territories find it possible to work with all of the different groups and customer types.
  5. Partnerships: Experienced foodservice manufacturers representatives learn how to develop partnerships with inside and outside decision makers leading up to the purchase of foodservice equipment and services. These influencers include purchasing personnel, foodservice design consultants, independent and corporate dealers, the executives of the businesses or organizations, and the food suppliers.

The primary function of a foodservice manufacturer’s representative is to represent and sell the company’s products and services to the customers, but what happens after the sale is just as important for building trust and rapport. Many reps assist their customers in dealing with equipment maintenance issues, conducts training sessions and workshops for the customer’s staff members, understand how food preparation and presentation affects the future purchase decisions of equipment and services, and any changes in the many criteria that influence the decisions to invest in foodservice equipment and related services.

In the past, foodservice manufacturer’s representatives were primarily salespeople. Today, the job description has evolved so that a rep is now a strategic consultant, intermediary, partner, and associate for their customers; a scenario that benefits both the vendor and the end-use customer.