Walk into the headquarters of C&T Design and Equipment Co. on the Eastside of Indianapolis and you can immediately see the award cases full of trophies. And then, the framed pictures of client success stories on the walls of the hallway leading to their client test kitchen. Their warehouse is loaded with the best and newest in food service equipment, grouped together by project and ready to be shipped out to clients all over the United States.
But to really get a sense of how C&T does business, you have to talk to the people. People are at the heart of this project-oriented company that’s been helping to design and install commercial kitchens for clients of all sizes since 1971.
“There are a lot of dealerships that sell equipment. Some of them are very focused on processes, like catalog or Internet ordering, and for some of them it’s a showroom, with a focus on the product. They fill their wagon and they want to sell what they have on their shelves. We’re just more invested in people…and empowering our people to go out and help our clients get to where they want to be,” said Mark Green, vice president and one of three principal/owners of C&T.
By “invested,” they really do mean a financial and professional commitment to their team members, too. Any time new sales consultants are hired, C&T provides a two- to three-year training period before setting them free to create and handle business on their own.
“We really consider ourselves more of a professional services company as opposed to just a distributor,” said Mike Kennedy, CFO and another of the principal/owners.
The professional services C&T provides are project-oriented, turn-key processes for helping food service enterprises of all types set up shop in the kitchen. From food trucks to military facilities, from start-up restaurants to hospitals, from caterers to convenience stores, C&T helps clients move from concept to working kitchen.
“First, we identify where the client is in the process,” said Gawain Guy, vice president of sales and the third principal/owner.
“They come to us in different stages,” Green added. “Sometimes they are already pretty far down the road, and they have a format we can build on. Sometimes we have to work backwards with them.”
“From there, we engage in strategy and how we can help the client,” Guy continued. “Once we understand what their needs are and what they want from us, we formalize our relationship and begin working with the client to vet their plan in terms of menu, capacity and more. Once we have a good idea what this kitchen needs to be, that’s where the skills of our salespeople really come into play.”
Together with clients and architects, C&T sales consultants put together a plan, incorporating any structural or code issues (such as mechanical, health and fire codes). Next, in engineering mode, architects draft a set of blueprints, which are then submitted to the state for permits. Once permits are in hand, clients can then hire general contractors for structural changes, when needed, and work with C&T for project management and installation of the kitchen.
“We will hold that client’s hand and get that kitchen installed per plan, per specs, on time and hopefully on budget,” Guy said.
Who is the ideal C&T client? There’s not just one profile. They’ve helped businesses like breweries, cafés and restaurant open their doors and complete remodels. Taste Café and Marketplace in South Broad Ripple (Indianapolis) is one such business that went through a massive kitchen redesign and appreciated the overall value offered by C&T. Taste was also able to stick to their goal of not having to close a single day during the remodel process, which was important to their business. Another customer of C&T’s, Union 50, located off Mass Ave. in downtown Indianapolis, used the company for its design and was the only Indiana restaurant on OpenTable’s 100 Hottest Restaurants in America list. And if you like beer, visit Indianapolis’ Blind Owl Brewery at Binford and 62nd street and you can appreciate the industrial and open look of a space once occupied by Entenmann’s.
“We’ve never wanted to be married to one segment of our industry and that’s proven over time to be a wise decision. In each of those categories, we would say there are clients that fit the ‘ideal’ client, but it’s really the clients that need the services that we offer beyond the equipment,” Guy said. “Every dealer in America can sell the equipment, but it’s how you help that client place the equipment in their restaurant and be sure it goes in the way it’s supposed to.”
For all clients, though, C&T’s goal is simple: “Our interest, ultimately, is to have a very good design and to have a client establish their dreams. We want them to be successful. That’s our interest. So we will surround them with everything that we can do to help them.”
Success for clients means success for the company, which ultimately comes back around to the people.
“We have a lot of families that depend on us to support themselves. They work for C&T design in several states. And we take that seriously; we need a healthy company,” Green said. “Also, our clients are running businesses, whatever segment they’re in, so they’re trying to support their families. So it’s a serious, very practical business, which maybe makes us boring, but that’s always been our approach. No pretense.”
For more information on products and services find them at C-TDesign.com.
Originally published at Edible Indy on September 4, 2016.