Issue Summer 13
The values of hard work and personalized service have guided The Wasserstrom Company for more than 100 years. Established in 1902 when founder Nathan Wasserstrom began selling kitchen supplies from a horse-drawn cart, The Wasserstrom Company has grown to become a leading national supplier to the foodservice industry.
Wasserstrom carries one of the most diverse and comprehensive product lines in the industry, offering everything from tabletop items, kitchen supplies, service and storage products and maintenance tools to foodservice furnishings, fixtures, large and small equipment, millwork and custom fabricated stainless. Its extensive inventory includes a wide variety of foodservice products from the industry’s leading manufacturers as well as specialized items that are carried to accommodate their customer’s specific needs.
“We sell to any size operator, from a small, single-unit bar; local pizza shop or food truck to some of the largest restaurant hospitality and supermarket chains in the industry,” says Brad Wasserstrom, president and great-grandson of its founder. Brad and his father, Rodney, lead the Columbus, Ohio-based company, which offers more than 100,000 foodservice products to customers worldwide.
The Wasserstrom Company serves multiple customer channels which include:
- Numerous large national restaurant, hospitality, healthcare and supermarket chains to whom the company sells products through customized programs and catalogs;
- Local foodservice entities serviced by a street sales force who provide products to local restaurants, hospitals, country clubs and other large commercial institutions;
- Online customers including independent restaurants, offices and consumers; and
- Retail customers, who are served through a small group of restaurant equipment and supply stores in Ohio.
In addition to distribution, The Wasserstrom Company also manufactures and sells many pieces of equipment through sister companies headed by Brad Wasserstrom’s uncle and cousin. The manufacturing arm of Wasserstrom produces stainless steel products such as prep tables, sinks and chef counters as well as custom stainless fabricated products and millwork, offering customers a full complement of foodservice products.
This diverse mix offers an innovative “one-stop-shopping” approach which has been unmatched by any other supplier in the industry.
At Their Service
Wasserstrom’s customers benefit from the company’s emphasis on service. “One of the big things that distinguishes us is our desire to offer a high level of service to our customers,” Brad Wasserstrom says. “We will bend over backward to make sure that dealing with us is easy for the customer. We’re here to make them successful, and believe if they are, that in turn will make us successful.”
Wasserstrom tailors its sales approach to meet the unique requirements of each and every customer. “We will customize any part of our business to suit our customers’ needs,” he adds. “We are truly driven by what our customers want and are constantly doing new things to provide a solution for our customers’ needs and desires.”
One example of this approach can be found on The Wasserstrom website. Multi-unit customers have a customized web portal featuring the company’s name and logo. This customized online “catalog” offers only those products that they regularly purchase. This could include items or brands that Wasserstrom stocks specifically for that customer. “We’re willing to bring in any items the customer wants us to bring in; we don’t have a house brand,” explains Brad Wasserstrom.
This customer-centric approach has earned Wasserstrom a number of “supplier of the year” and “dealer of the year” honors from industry trade publications and clients.
Internal improvement is a high priority for the The Wasserstrom Company particularly in light of the decline of new restaurant construction during and after the recession. “The volume at our distribution centers has shifted from processing large contract orders to handling smaller, more frequently placed orders,” Wasserstrom says. “The product mix that our customers are buying from us has also changed.”
The company regularly supports rollouts of new products for heavily promoted menu items offered by quick-service restaurants to drive new business. To handle this shift in business, Wasserstrom has updated much of its internal operating systems, including the implementation of SAP software and order processing upgrades at their distribution centers. The company is also adding about 30 percent capacity to its’ distribution network this year.
“We’re focused on reducing our internal costs and increasing our efficiencies across our business in order to avoid raising our prices,” Wasserstrom adds. “There’s always an area that can benefit from being upgraded.”
Since its earliest days in business, the Wasserstrom family has believed strongly in supporting its surrounding community. Company associates regularly participate in or donate to organizations including the American Red Cross, United Way, Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus Symphony Orchestra and Habitat for Humanity.
The company has in the past also contributed equipment to local healthcare facilities including the Arthur G. James Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute in Columbus as well as the local homeless shelter, Faith Mission.
“The community has been good to us as a family and as a company and we believe very much in giving back,” Wasserstrom says. “There’s not a month that goes by where we’re not participating in some kind of charitable activity.”