Founded in 1947, Low Temp Industries, Inc (commonly referred to as LTI) celebrates 75 years in business this year. The company specializes in the manufacture and design of modular and custom serving counters, fabrication and advanced serving technologies. “The biggest privilege of my life is being able to work here,” says Barbara Casey Lane, president and third- generation owner of the business. “I’ve worked in a lot of other for-profit and non-profit jobs but I always longed to come back after I left the first time.”
What makes LTI special, says Casey Lane, is its focus on the people and passion. “We’re a family business; my grandfather was a founder and then my father took it over, followed by my brother and me, and my sister has been involved [in the business] as well,” she says. “We’re passionate about what we do. Being the oldest of the children in my family, and because my parents had me at a young age, I have had the privilege of working with the original team that included my grandparents. “My great aunt was the one who nurtured my growth. Now, we’re seeking national certification as a woman-owned business.”
A graduate of the University of Georgia, Casey Lane spent the early years of her career at LTI from 1980 to 1989 working alongside the first and second-generation owners. In 2013, after spending some years working in product development and marketing, operational systems and leadership development for other companies, she returned to LTI as chief operating officer. This past April, she was promoted to CEO and chairperson.
“I got to walk the plant regularly with my dad before he passed away, and he showed me everything and talked me through challenges – I can’t believe I got to do that for seven years,” Casey Lane says. “I got to witness first-hand the importance of having a passion for quality foodservice and how we’re working to change how food is served.”
In the early years, LTI supplied to the military, building foodservice serving solutions for submarines and aircraft carriers, Casey Lane says: “We began to work in schools in the late 1970s and saw a lot of opportunity with that market. Schools were having difficulty keeping kids eating at school and cafeterias had an institutional feel. We started exploring opportunities for not only serving, but enhancing the way that food was displayed. That has been a mainstay for us.”
Based in Atlanta, LTI today has 148 full-time employees. “We also have a couple hundred reps in groups across the country and recently expanded to Canada,” Casey Lane says, noting that the company does most of its custom work with K-12 and large university campuses across the country as well as corporate dining. “That’s a growing sector for us, as well as healthcare.”
LTI is perhaps most known for its flagship product, interchangeable food wells heavily used by K-12 schools and colleges/universities as well as healthcare and B&I foodservice operators. “Our gold standard is the QuickSwitch convertible food wells,” says Casey Lane. “These are independently controlled wells that can serve hot, cold or frozen side-by-side in the same unit. Our customers are always very excited about [the wells] because of the flexibility and space savings they offer.”
LTI also offers a QuickSwitch ceran glass display that can convert from a heated shelf to a frost top with the flip of a switch. Other products include ThermalWell hot food wells designed to conserve water and reduce energy usage; TempestAir refrigerated cold pans, a drop-in unit developed to hold products in open pans at a temperature of 40oF (4.5oC) or less; UD-wall steel serving counters built with a steel framework for extra durability; and SpecLine modular and premium serving counters. The company also offers custom counters, stainless steel fabrication and design services for cafeterias in various segments. “We work with some excellent consulting groups across the company for design,” says Casey Lane.
Surviving and expanding
LTI has gone through a few milestones over the years – perhaps the most significant one was a fire at the original office in Jonesboro that prompted the brother-in-law of William Casey to retire and transfer the business to him. “There was a truck full of equipment sitting at the dock when the fire happened – the entire building burned down,
but my grandfather and the team were able to salvage this truck with the equipment. He delivered all of it and even managed to show a small profit that year,” says Casey Lane.
“The Casey family sought to expand the headquarters,” she continues. “Prior to the expansion into the new facility in 2019, there were multiple buildingswhere our team was working. We had the opportunity to purchase land next door to us and were able to build and move everyone into our current facility, gaining efficiency under one roof for the first time.”
During the pandemic, while LTI dealt with cafeteria closings and supply chain issues like so many companies in the industry, the crisis also “challenged us to be better,” says Casey Lane. Product innovation was part of that, but so was company morale and leadership.
“One thing we’ve been working on lately is focusing on diversity in our leadership and creating more opportunities for women in particular,” she says. “I was fortunate to work for my great aunt who helped me grow within the company, but I realize now that it’s not typical in manufacturing or foodservice to have that many women in leadership positions. Now, we have placed several women in charge of scheduling, customer service and we have women welders in the manufacturing plant.”
Casey Lane says she has a few goals as the new leader of the company, chiefly building on the legacy of a strong company culture. “This year, we’re growing our workforce and encouraging that whole family feel, where everyone is important and matters, not just the owners and original family members,” she says. “We want people to be a part of our company to support their families because this is a place they want to be. We don’t want egos here; we think about and support one another, and that definitely spills over to the way we think about our customers.”
A focus on leveraging technologies and new innovations is also part of Casey Lane’s future goals. “The way we go to market is having our feet on the ground and understanding what operators are up against,” she says.
While focusing on the operator remains a key component of the company’s mission, so is building relationships with consultants – also because many of the products LTI offers are custom-based and require some extra finesse with design.
“No two projects are the same for us, and that’s what makes it so exciting,” says Casey Lane. “The challenge is how to work with design to make sure our serving equipment and counters work in a certain space.”
The company also remains committed to community and philanthropy. “A large portion of the workforce lives in the immediate area near our headquarters,” says Casey Lane. “We’re active with our chamber of commerce and work with local schools to sponsor different departments and give back. That’s definitely the people- oriented side of us.”
For Casey Lane, after 75 years of strong company consistency and growth, any success going forward all comes back to the people and attitude. “Even as we continue to grow, we never want to lose the foundational part of the people who work here and who we’re serving. We’ll always keep that humble side. We want to work together – with each other, our customers, consultants and the industry and our communities at large.”