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In memoriam: Ronald P. Kooser FFCSI

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A "love of his profession and desire to provide the best design solutions" made him a proponent of excellence throughout his career, reports Amelia Levin

Ronald P. Kooser, an industry legend and leader at Cini-Little International, Inc., passed away peacefully last week, the company announced in a press release. Kooser, who had been battling cancer for some time, is survived by his wife, two children and their families.

“Ron hired me straight out of Purdue, and I had the privilege to work with him in the Cleveland office for more than nine years,” Dick Eisenbarth FCSI, president and COO of Cini-Little, said in the release.

“Ron has been a mentor throughout my career and progression to my current position. Ron taught me the importance of listening to our clients and offering strategic planning solutions at every phase of a project. Ron was always an encourager and ingrained in me giving back to a number of initiatives throughout my career.”

Positive influence

William Eaton FFCSI, Cini-Little’s chairman of the board also remembered Kooser fondly. “I have known Ron for almost seven decades and graduated from Cornell in the same class of 1961,” he said. “We were in college together and shortly after college, joined the same company, Hot Shoppes, now known as Marriott International, Inc. We have traveled together numerous times, vacationed together and visited each other’s homes many times. To make it simple, we were like brothers. We will miss Ron’s clear mind and positive influence on the company, the industry, and to everyone he knew. God bless Ron, Linda and the whole Kooser clan.”

Kooser started his career with Stouffer’s Foods in the design department planning Stouffer restaurants, hotels and commercial operations. He joined Cini-Little International, Inc., in 1970, opening the firm’s first branch office in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, where he built the company’s name recognition in the Midwest through his foodservice design expertise as well as his high regard for maintaining a client-consultant relationship built on mutual respect and trust.

A proponent of excellence through shared education, Kooser trained and mentored his staff to maintain integrity of design and to ensure the very best for each client.

A top consultant

Through the years, Kooser pioneered effective healthcare foodservice design solutions that propelled institutional foodservice into a different realm of suitability and excellence for the patient and visitor alike, creating profitability in an otherwise under-appreciated market. Recognized as a top consultant in his field, Kooser’s unique insight and creative, leading-edge designs have won numerous awards throughout his career.

After leading the firm for five years as president and COO and two years as CEO, he retired in 2012 from the day-to-day business, but remained active on the company’s board and served as design advisor to Cini-Little’s associates.

Kooser was a Fellow of the FCSI, serving as worldwide president from 1982 to 1983, and in many other capacities during his 50-plus years of membership. He shared his passion and vast knowledge at numerous industry related conferences throughout the years and offered much insight into the foodservice industry through prolific authoring of trade magazine articles.

A graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, Kooser was an active member of the Cornell Hotel Society, serving as past director as well as past president and member of the Northeastern Ohio Chapter. Having served as ’61 Class Director for the Hotel School Alumni Association Magazine, he continued to be an active content contributor throughout his life.

Says longtime friend and colleague Harry Schildkraut FCSI, principal of S2O Consultants, “I worked with Ron for over 30 years. In all that time he was always available to help and mentor me to do a better job for our clients. He taught me that the needs of the client always came first. He is missed.”

Creative spirit

“Ron Kooser will be remembered for his contributions to the foodservice consultancy industry and his unwavering honesty, integrity and kindness to everyone surrounding him,” Kathleen Held, CEO of Cini-Little, said in the release.

“His dedication to the company was a testament to his love of his profession and his desire to provide the very best design solutions to his clientele. Ron possessed a creative spirit and was charismatic in his relationships with his clients. Those who had the pleasure of working with Ron will never forget the passion he brought to everything he did. His constant drive to help all succeed made him a natural mentor and leader. He was a sincere, generous man and will be missed, but his spirit left a powerful mark on me personally and this firm that will continue on.”

A celebration of Kooser’s life will be held at a later date because of the current pandemic. Those wishing to make a donation in Ron’s memory may donate to: the Wounded Warriors Project at woundedwarriorproject.org/donate.

Amelia Levin