Company spotlight: Multiteria

Innovation has driven the growth of serving counter manufacturer Multiteria. Mike Egan and Larry Moon talk to Amelia Levin about the evolution of an industry leader

On-time delivery. Unbeatable lead times. Endless solutions. These are the taglines you’ll see on Multiteria’s website. But they’re also reiterated by the company’s executive vice president Michael Egan. “We remain committed to on-time delivery, strong communication with our customers, consultant and dealer partners and ongoing innovation,” he says.

Multiteria is a manufacturer of portable and fixed-in-place, upscale serving counters serving all segments of the foodservice industry. The company, founded in 2005, is an offspring of Lakeside Manufacturing, Inc, a longtime mobile solutions manufacturer for the foodservice and medical industries. In the early days, Multiteria primarily served the K12 market, but it has since expanded its customer base to include the college/university, hospitality, B&I, healthcare, and specialty retail segments.

“When we started out, our product was much simpler than today; offering high-end finishes and curved counter shapes were a challenge because of our limited capabilities at the time,” says Egan, who came on board at Multiteria in 2008. “Since making significant investments with equipment and personnel, however, we’ve grown in our capabilities and now offer more upscale, modular and totally customizable solutions for all industry segments. We’ve come a long way.”

Multiteria manufactures three different levels of retail serving counter products providing a good, a better and a best product platform; M-Power, Essence and Meritage respectively. Designs can
be created using free standing or portable modular sections or manufactured and installed as one continuous serving line with higher end finishes, in many shapes and sizes having minimal gaps or seams.

“Innovation and product improvements have been a big part of that growth, we’re always adding other ancillary features to our counter products to help accentuate and elevate the retail experience,” Egan points out.

“Decorative overstructures and canopies add retail identity [to our counters] for foodservice directors and consultants looking for specialty retail designs. It eliminates the need to build overhead soffits and other structural building elements. There’s also an option to hang pendant lighting and mount digital boards. We also have stylish traffic rails as a better alternative to free standing stations with retractable straps for crowd control, such as you’d find in a bank lobby for example. We even have
options to enclose freestanding air screen refrigeration components. We like to think outside of the box.”

Indeed, “Lead by Design” is Multiteria’s main tagline, and perhaps it denotes what sets the company apart from others. This approach has a lot to do with Egan, who spent 22 years as a successful foodservice design consultant with a hospitality and design company out of New York prior to joining the company. As such, he brings a solid understanding of what design consultants need and expect from a manufacturer.

“Part of what makes Multiteria unique is we can work with consultants, end-users, and dealers and tailor our services to what they’re looking for,” says Larry Moon, chairman/CEO of Sandstone Group, Inc, the parent company of Lakeside Manufacturing and Multiteria. “If the consultant has a concept in mind, they don’t need to rely on Mike [Egan] to help with the design aspect, but if someone doesn’t have those resources, we have the ability to provide some design and engineering solutions.”

Multiteria’s design-friendly approach is also reflected in the company’s self described “rigorous” process to better understand customer needs to provide the most innovative and effective product solutions for projects. The company works closely with the consultant’s design team to finalize AutoCAD drawing plans and REVIT families, develop detailed equipment elevations and counter sections to indicate specific equipment and dimensions, identify and accommodate all electrical requirements, list exterior finishes and color selections, and revise the equipment budget.

“We also show other equipment components that are on counter tops or are adjacent to our counters on our drawings, even if we don’t sell or build that product,” says Egan. “It helps our customers envision the overall project design better and we can identify the utility requirements on our drawings so they aren’t left out.

“We help consultants by offering faster response times, and by delivering what we say we’re going to deliver. Our best consultants find us easy to work with as a manufacturer because we understand the process and will raise the necessary design questions and sometimes provide some degree of oversight. Our consultant partners appreciate that because they’re often very busy and the more details we pay attention to and the faster we can get them quality drawings the better.”

Enhanced factory rep network

“Multiteria is dedicated to finding the best equipment reps to support consultant-designed projects”, says Egan. “And as word has spread about our product quality, on-time deliveries, and full project support, we have been able to attract top reps to assist projects locally; locally meaning where designed, where transacted, where delivered. We feel they are an incredible asset to a smoother running process and to successfully delivered projects. We continually train them and arm them with the tools and information needed to be valuable partners to consultants.”

Customer-forward focus

As part of Multiteria’s customer forward approach, maintaining regular communication with consultants and end users is the best way to discover what new products and features are needed in order to provide real time solutions.

“We speak with a lot of our end users and listen to their challenges to help solve problems,” Egan says. “For example, our K12 school customers have challenges with space and feeding a large number of students as populations increase. And labor is a problem now; K12 school foodservice operators can’t get people to work those jobs.”

As such, Egan says his team’s equipment solutions are focused on adding more grab-and-go and air screen refrigeration to introduce more selfservice as the best solution when there’s less staff to support traditional meal service. Air screen refrigeration is also a great way to utilize vertical space when there is limited space.

On-time delivery and installation

Supply chain slowdowns and meeting project deadlines are also major challenges consultants and end users face today. To address this, Multiteria’s customer-focused approach ensures one of the best lead times in the industry.

“Communication at each step of the manufacturing process is key. We focus on communicating the production and status of every project, from receipt of the purchase order to when it goes through the plant and the day it ships from our factory,” Egan says.

“Similar to Amazon, we confirm receiving an order and communicate when it will ship, where it is along the route and when it will arrive. We also communicate when an unforeseen challenge arises in the manufacturing process as soon as we know about it. Things can and will go wrong, but good communication can go a long way to help soften the impact it may cause at the back end of the project. This helps us assure excellent, on-time delivery to project sites.”

This has given Multiteria a huge advantage in the marketplace, especially over the last three years despite ongoing supply-chain challenges caused by the pandemic – some of which are only just now improving.

There are also increasing concerns with the overall quality, fit and finish of project installations, and subsequently the large number of punch list items that need to be rectified. “We listened to consultants and learned there were some growing inconsistencies in terms of projects not being completed on time and not being executed very well,” says Egan.

To address this, Multiteria now offers two levels of factory installation services. “Installation Supervision is the first option, which will include sending a lead engineer to help the foodservice equipment contractor’s installation team put together counter sections, especially with more complex projects,” Egan explains.

“That’s very popular among our customers because they want the job done right the first time. Our second-tier option is to send a team of two to three factory installers who are responsible for the installation of the entire serving line.”

Multiteria can also provide the material and labor for on-site seaming of solid surface and quartz countertop materials – a unique service implemented in the last year because it was often
overlooked and not clearly covered in the project scope.

“Factory experienced personnel are understandably far more familiar with their own equipment in comparison to traditional food service equipment installers; they know how it’s assembled and what it takes to assure the best end result,” Egan says. “We want to be the single source of accountability, from start to finish.”

Ongoing innovation

To stay on top of trends and innovation, Egan says he attends many trade shows, and industry and association events, and regularly consumes trade publications and social media, but above all, “our customers are our greatest resource. We spend time listening to consultants and operators to learn about trends.”

“I find one of the best places to discover new trends and get inspiration is at airports. There are so many creative retail concepts using all kinds of new equipment types, lighting, textures and interior finishes. You can tell when designers and manufacturers strike a balance between form and function; there should be aesthetic appeal, but the equipment layout needs to function well too.” Words spoken by a seasoned designer.

Weathering the storm

During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, Moon and other senior management focused on remaining compassionate and were able to retain nearly all employees. “We had weekly Zoom meetings for people who had never worked remotely before,” says Moon.

“Our discussions weren’t always business related, some were very personal, too.” Management at Lakeside and Multiteria also conducted regular outreach to customers. “For our K12 customers, we weren’t trying to sell them something, we were just getting an understanding of how they were coping.”

In the end, the companies were able to maintain business and come out ahead. Both Moon and Egan point to the positive company culture as the reason for that.

“Culture has always been important to me; we truly appreciate the people who work here and how we impact their lives,” says Moon. “One of our foundational beliefs is that we’re always looking at ways to improve what we’re doing and searching for ways to offer more value to the end-user, consultants and dealers we work with,” says Moon.

“That has always been our philosophy,” Egan reiterates. “We’re constantly looking for new ways to
improve not only what we do internally, but how we can be more relevant to the fast-changing marketplace.”

Amelia Levin

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