Vollrath Invests in Supporting Channel Partners and Enhancing the Digital Experience

Vollrath CEO and President Paul Bartelt

As part of its mission to celebrate organizations that push the foodservice equipment and supplies industry forward, the FEDA First Thing newsletter is publishing a series of Q&As with member companies. The week features Vollrath, a nearly 150-year-old manufacturer of smallwares, countertop equipment, and serving systems based in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

Who is your customer base?
Depending on which Vollrath business, our customers include almost anyone who is involved in the foodservice industry. From all types of restaurants, catering operations, food and hotel chains, convenience stores, supermarkets, K-12 schools, colleges and universities, health care facilities and other institutions, stadia and arenas to dealers, distributors, designers, and consultants. Our products can be found in most commercial food operations around the globe. Plus, we service various other industries with custom manufacturing solutions from our Custom & Specialty Products business.

How has your company set itself apart in its market?
The Vollrath Company was founded in 1874, which means we’ve had close to 150 years to prove our worth to our customers. Adhering to uncompromising quality in all our products, along with excellent customer service leaves a long-term impression and has created a loyal customer base that values our products and how we do business.

How has the company innovated in recent years?
Foodservice technology is constantly evolving, and we strive to be on the leading edge. Our biggest product innovation focus has been on induction technology in recent years because we think that it is a technology that is revolutionizing the commercial kitchen environment. We’ve introduced a wide range of induction products, several of which have received industry accolades, that are enthusiastically being embraced by more and more chefs.

We’ve also made significant investments in technology to support our channel partners and operators through the sales cycle and beyond. Last year we launched a redesigned Vollrath Foodservice website and in January we launched the update for Stoelting Foodservice. Both websites provide a best-in-class digital experience, including improved mobile responsiveness, robust search, content organization, shareable content, and comprehensive product specifications.

How is your company making the best use of new technology, either in your products or in the way you work with distributors to reach operators?
As we all know the foodservice industry is still a bit conservative and having personal connections with business partners and customers is one of its core values. The pandemic and the social distancing mandates have accelerated the acceptance of some new technologies including virtual presentations and meetings. Our new website features a portal for our channel partners to access product information, including new product launches, live training, product news and updates, and product specials which have been really well received.

How is your organization growing?
Despite last year’s challenges, The Vollrath Company has expanded its footprint with a high-end custom fabrication facility for its Serving Systems and Components division in Newport, Minnesota. This includes a selection of adjustable breath guards and custom refrigeration components as well as added millwork and installation capabilities. We’ve also been revamping our websites to make them more user-friendly and easier to navigate.

What are some ways your market is changing?
The pandemic has unquestionably had a devastating effect on our industry. One positive that may come out of it is that the businesses have been completely shaken up and forced to innovate at a much faster rate than normal. This will help set us up for success when the economy and our industry rebound, which they will.

How has your organization adjusted to the challenges of COVID-19 and have those adjustments changed how you work with distributors?
The initial adjustment was difficult, but from the beginning, we put the health and safety of our associates and business partners first. We also adjusted our business strategy and goals, but we didn’t let it impact how we work with distributors. To the contrary, maintaining and cultivating those relationships is even more important when everyone in the industry is trying to make it through these difficult times.

What excites you about the future of our industry?
I am confident that the foodservice industry will experience a comeback once we’ve managed to contain the pandemic. And thanks to the learnings and pivots we had to make during the pandemic, we’re better prepared for the next chapter. At Vollrath, we’ve set ourselves up to bring value to our partners and customers as soon as they are ready.

Is there anything else FEDA members should know about your company?
Vollrath is widely known for its smallwares and countertop equipment, but we also have a full line of serving systems and components. We are really a one-stop-shop for all foodservice needs, including custom fabrication.