Gusti Restaurant Equipment Favors Manufacturers that Provide Strong Support

By Tim O’Connor

When John Gusti joined his father’s company in 1999 to grow its smallwares business, pots, pans, utensils and other hand tools took up only about a quarter of Gusti Restaurant Equipment’s 6,000-square-foot showroom. Adding more of those items soon brought new types of customers to the company and today it has a full showroom just for smallwares.

New products now make up about 80 percent of Gusti Restaurant Equipment’s total business. The company steers customers toward high-end domestic used and new products that are more likely to hold up, have less downtime, and are less expensive in the long run. “People who understand the business will buy the used good stuff because they know it will last longer than the new imports,” said Gusti, who is vice president of the company.

Still, the market demand for affordable, new items is undeniable and much of Gusti Restaurant Equipment’s growth over the past 25 years can be credited to fulfilling that need. “Buying the new stuff has brought us a better buying power, the way that we’re purchasing,” Gusti said. Additionally, it enabled the company to get into bid work for small mom-and-pop restaurants in Virginia looking to open their second or third locations. As a result, Gusti Restaurant Equipment’s annual sales have risen from about $300,000 in 1992 to $5 million this year.

That’s a significant improvement since John’s father, Joe, founded his namesake company in 1992 after purchasing the Richmond, Va.-based, used equipment distributor he had worked for the previous eight years. In the beginning, the dealership was solely focused on used equipment sales, but over the course of its first decade it slowly expanded its product offerings and began selling new equipment.

In choosing which equipment to sell, Gusti Restaurant Equipment prefers working with manufacturers such as Welbilt that "appreciate the value a smaller distributor creates for end users." Welbilt sales reps foster that relationship by visiting the dealership at least once a month to check on inventory and go over any issues it is experiencing. For its part, Gusti rewards that effort by stocking more Welbilt products, making the Florida-based company its biggest supplier.

The dealership serves all of Virginia, but most of its business occurs in a 75-mile radius outside of Richmond. “We’re just trying to keep up,” Gusti said. “In order to keep our customers happy, we’re sticking with what we know.”