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In memoriam: John C. Cini FFCSI (PP)

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One of the founders of Cini-Little International, Inc., John Cini passed away peacefully at home on July 4th surrounded by his family

Foodservice consulting icon John C. Cini FFCSI (PP), one of the founders of Cini-Little International, Inc., passed away peacefully at home surrounded by his family on Wednesday 4 July 2018. He is survived by his wife, three children and their families.

Cini enjoyed an active, successful career in the foodservice and hospitality industry and was highly respected in the specialized field of foodservice design consulting as a pioneer and driving force that paved the way for many others. He began his career at Stouffer’s Restaurant and Prexy’s in New York City, gaining solid operations experience. In 1963, he was recruited by Marriott Corporation to direct
its Food Facilities Design Division in Maryland. Five years later in 1968, he struck out on his own and was joined by fellow Cornell alumni, to start his own consulting firm, now known as Cini-Little International, Inc.

Impact and influence

“To say it quite simply, John had the greatest impact on my professional life of any single individual, and an equally important influence on my life in general as one of a handful of those who have been a friend for over five decades.” says Bill Eaton FFCSI, Cini-Little’s chairman of the board.

Cini retired from the day to day business in June 2002, after leading his firm for 34 years as Chairman and CEO. Cini remained active on the board until 2016.

“I am privileged and thankful for the opportunity to work closely with John for almost four decades,” shares Ron Kooser FFCSI. “As a colleague, business partner, and most of all, a friend. He had a zest for all things in his professional and personal lives, and enriched those who were fortunate enough to cross his path. Our industry has lost a bright light, and we will miss him.”

Cini started his firm in an era when foodservice within commercial facilities was regarded as a necessity with little emphasis placed on the important role food and dining plays within our everyday lives. Cini innately understood the importance of planning and designing a strong, efficient and dynamic foodservice operation to connect the community of people they served. Working with prominent architects and clients, his firm designed commercial kitchens for corporations, hospitals, universities, museums, and sports complexes as well as for hotels and famous restaurateurs. Cini was a master at selecting the best talent and expertise to design and produce a great project.

Landmark projects

Thinking outside the box, Cini and his firm designed many of the “firsts” in the industry including the first food halls and scatter-style serveries. Cini was responsible for designing kitchens and support facilities in a number of landmark projects including the iconic twin towers at the World Trade Center, Colonial Williamsburg, The Greenbrier, IBM, and the National Gallery of Art.

Diane Dowling, Cini-Little’s CFO/CEO, says: “As his daughter, I had the privilege of seeing how much my dad loved his profession and the foodservice industry in general. He had an innate curiosity and ability to reason through difficult problems that led him to be so successful during his career. It was my honor to work by his side for many years and now to lead the company he built.”

Cini was a founding member of FCSI and was honored as a member of the FCSI Council of Fellows in 1986, for his extraordinary contributions to the foodservice and hospitality industry. Dick Eisenbarth FCSI, vice president of strategic relations and board member of Cini-Little, reflected, upon hearing the news of Cini’s passing, “He believed in preparing young people for careers in the foodservice industry and supported the growth and education of the foodservice consulting profession through this Society.”

Cini’s interests and involvement extended beyond Cini-Little as well. He served on a number of board and advisory committees including University of Delaware’s Hotel, Restaurant & Institutional Management School’s Advisory Council during the creation and early years of the program. Cini, a Cornell Hotel School Alumnus, was an active member of the Cornell Hotel Society. As an opera enthusiast and music lover, he held a long-term position on the Board of Visitors for the School of Music at the University of Maryland. He was a long-time supporter of the arts.

Cini made a huge impact on our industry and personally touched many, many people, inside and outside of the firm. Kathleen Held, CMO of Cini-Little, remembers him fondly, “He always asked profound questions and his mind was razor sharp. He had the ability to articulate his thoughts in a way that made everyone stop and want to listen. You are just a better person for having been around and mentored by someone like John Cini.”

Further details:

The family will receive visitors at Pumphrey Funeral Home, 300 W Montgomery Ave, Rockville, Maryland, on Monday, July 9, 2018, from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday 10 July 2018, at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church, 9200 Kentsdale Dr, Potomac, MD. Burial will follow at Gate of Heaven Cemetery, 13801 Georgia Ave, Silver Spring, MD. In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.