Every year, Foodservice Equipment & Supplies magazine recognizes one of the foodservice community's best companies with its Dealer of the Year award. We're proud to announce that Clark Associates has received this prestigious commendation for 2015, acknowledging our ability to satisfy customers while maximizing business relationships and the talents of our ambitious young team. But how have we managed to triple in size over the past 4 years, despite the sluggish economy? FE&S points to 4 of our core pursuits: invest heavily in people and infrastructure, deliver value on the customers' terms, use technology to drive efficiency and lower costs, and don't be afraid to learn from mistakes along the way.
Clark Associates is a family of businesses that strives to meet any need of anyone in the foodservice industry through 3 primary distribution channels--e-commerce, the traditional dealership model, and cash and carry--and we are proud to have the infrastructure to support our ambitions. With distribution centers throughout the country and more than 1.5 million square feet of warehouse space, we have plenty of room for in-demand products and can get them to customers quicker than anyone else. And thanks to the setup of our support services, the cost of things like accounting and payroll can be spread across different channels so we can afford to hire some of the best people in their fields.
We demand 2 things out of job candidates: intelligence and work ethic. We want people with an entrepreneurial spirit who have ideas, take risks, and speak up while remaining honest and ethical. Experience in the foodservice industry isn't necessary! Whether someone has decades of experience or doesn't know the difference between a stock pot and a sauce pan, it's about finding driven people who are passionate about and skilled in their discipline.
Foodservice nuance can be learned, so a heavy emphasis is placed on training and continuing education through opportunities like weekly trainings in our test kitchen and trips throughout the nation to attend industry conferences. Hard work is complemented by convenient amenities like soda fountains, popcorn machines, ping pong tables, or even an on-site gym, and that hard work is rewarded with a competitive salary and the opportunity for rapid career advancement.
Our amazing employees combine with the specific focus of each individual business to provide an excellent value to customers, whatever their need may be, and without selling them anything they don't. A relationship with a customer may start out as project-based with 11400, before moving onto something more long-term with Clark Food Service Equipment, which can then handle ongoing smallwares orders via its online arm, Clark Pro.
At The Restaurant Store, associates have the knowledge to assist customers and identify those that might be better served by another part of the business so they can be connected with another Clark Associates division. At the WebstaurantStore, photos, videos, descriptive text, and a renowned customer solutions team provide online shoppers with a showroom experience, giving customers the education they need to determine their best investment--whether that's the $269 entry level meat slicer or the $8000 premium meat slicer--from the convenience of their computer or mobile device. The key is delivering the service each unique customer base demands.
The quest for technology efficiency is another driving force behind the success of Clark Associates. Efficiencies lower costs which frees up time and capital for other pursuits. What better way to maximize efficiency than by capitalizing on the available resources of the technological boom?
The WebstaurantStore broadcasts things like page load times, website errors, customer wait times, and other performance-based metrics on monitors throughout its building to emphasize progress, accountability, and achievement. The Restaurant Store has evolved the approach to cash and carry by allowing customers to visit its website, order what they need, and receive an email when it's ready to be picked up. Technological efficiencies permeate through every Clark Associates business, and even bleed over into the hiring process where our IT department has developed a system that allows managers to view all open positions within the company. This allows management to review applications for their team and, if an applicant would be better utilized elsewhere in the company, send the application to another manager to truly maximize the applicant pool.
Mistakes are a natural component of trying new things, so they're not a bad thing at Clark Associates. In fact, the company's president, Fred Clark, views mistakes as tuition--the price paid to learn what's best for business. We understand that the cost of staying the same is greater than any mistake made in pursuit of improvement, and that mindset starts at the top. Management would rather pull employees back than push them forward. In an evolving industry like foodservice, that makes present and future opportunities for the company, its customers, and employees that much more exciting.