Q: What was the immediate impact to your business at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic?
We lost roughly 80 per cent of our mom-and-pop restaurant sales, but QSR sales were up. We immediately eliminated all unnecessary expenses, too, such as marketing, public relations, travel and tradeshows. Fortunately, we didn’t lay anyone off, but we had to have conversations with our employees about what it would mean if we saw a significant decline in our revenue.
Q: What residual effects are you still feeling?
Last year  was actually a good year for us. Our business is diversified nicely, so what we lost on the foodservice-and-hospitality side, we gained on the retail and grocery side.
Q: How have these challenges changed your company’s approach to strategy and product development?
Diversification has always been important for us, but since the onset of COVID-19, we’ve learned how to manage our business from a more conservative standpoint. We quickly realized that anything can happen and needed to make sure that we had enough capital to be able to weather a storm
Q: What is the most innovative new restaurant equipment product to come out as a result of COVID-19 challenges?
In our product mix, nothing new has emerged. We’re just selling more of what we were already selling before. There’s been an uptick in QSR sales because operators are pushing chain development and more franchisees are under contract to open up new franchises annually. In terms of products, they’re buying what they were previously.
Q: Have price increases and supply-chain issues continued to be a challenge for your company and, in turn, your customers?
Some factories have had five price increases in six months. Distribution channels are completely backlogged. Some factories are taking orders now that won’t ship until Q3 2022. The cost of lumber and stainless steel has grown astronomically, so the manufacturers have to pass that cost along through the supply chain and the end user ends up having to pay more. There’s just not enough resources right now and it’s a competition [based] on who can get their hands on it the quickest.
It’s also challenging because everything happened so fast and the manufacturing side had its own layoffs. Now they’re at 100-per-cent capacity, but the only way to improve operations is to literally add on another line or build a new wing to a factory, but those things take time. Eventually, supply will meet demand and we’ll go back to our normal levels of development,
Q: Now that we’re in the re-opening stage, what business approach are you taking for “getting back to normal,” and how do you tailor it to meet the differing needs of your clients?
We need to understand the hardships these operators have faced. I could raise my prices by 50 per cent right now because no one can get stock. However, we’re keeping our margins the exact same as they’ve always been. If anything, we’ll lower them. We want our customers to know that we’ve been here the whole time. We supported you before COVID-19 and we’re going to support you after it. We’re in