Online Sales Now Represent 60 Percent of HRS’ Overall Business

As distributors work to stay competitive in the changing foodservice equipment market, an increasing number are looking at nontraditional solutions such as developing their own private label products. The latest company to join that trend is also one of FEDA’s newest members, (HRS).

The Florida-based company is in the midst of launching its first brands, HRS Hot and HRS Cold. The brands will eventually encompass a range of equipment, including fryers, ranges, charbroilers, refrigerators, freezers, and sandwich prep tables. The goal is to better market HRS to end users, so “when operators buy from us,” President Lee Rosenthal said, “they see our name and our brand on the equipment in their facilities.”

In addition to growing the HRS brand, Rosenthal said that creating a private label will allow the company to buy in bulk and tackle issues with minimum advertised pricing—saving customers money and improving equipment margins. “When it’s my label and my brand, we can price the merchandise as we choose,” he added.

The creation of a private label line of products is the latest evolution for a company that has been changing since its founding 15 years ago. Rosenthal’s father, Alan, founded HRS in 2003 after several decades in the foodservice equipment industry working for distributors such as Edward Don & Co. During his career, Alan specialized in export sales with a focus on the Caribbean. Rosenthal later followed his father into the business and learned to sell into the same region. Many of the largest resorts, catering companies, and supermarket groups in the Caribbean that developed relationships with the father-son team remain HRS customers today. A quarter of the company’s total sales are through its export business.

Serving those kinds of international customers well requires extensive experience of the customs process. Even in instances where HRS has an item in stock at its headquarters in Deerfield Beach, Fla., just north of Miami, the slow export process means it can take a month to move an order from port to its destination island. HRS, a member of the Pride Centric Resources buying group, taps into its relationships with shipping companies and leverages its team’s experience for filling out export documentation to make that process as painless as possible for its buyers. “It’s just second nature to us now,” Rosenthal said.

In addition to its export business, another thing that has become second nature to HRS is its online sales. Six years ago, the company launched its first e-commerce site and online sales since have risen to 60 percent of the overall business. HRS offers about 200,000 products through its website and processes between 50 and 100 new orders online, with plans to grow to 500 orders daily in the next few years.

E-commerce sales remain an important key to its future growth. Building on those capabilities, HRS recently completed an extensive upgrade to make its website faster and easier to navigate, and to introduce new features, such as a resource page that guides customers through the specifications to build a custom walk-in cooler.

But technology is not the only area where HRS is making investments. In January, the company hired Daniel Diaz as its executive corporate chef and corporate manager. Diaz has a background in fine dining and has worked with well-known chefs such as restaurateur Daniel Boulud, owner of the highly regarded Café Boulud in New York City. “It’s extraordinary to have a chef of his caliber on our team who can communicate effectively with any chef on the planet,” Rosenthal said.

Diaz is the second trained chef to join HRS and will bolster the company’s ability to approach equipment with the same mindset as its customers. “We like to focus on being built by chefs for chefs,” he said.