Sitting Down with Raulie Treadway, Bill Aleksandrian, and Edzel Sarigumba of Dedicated Foodservice Solutions

We sat down with Raulie Treadway, Bill Aleksandrian, and Edzel Sarigumba from Dedicated Foodservice Solutions to discuss how they’ve built such a great company and why they choose Arctic for all of their cold storage needs. 

How about we start with a few introductions?

Raulie Treadway: I started back in the grocery business when I was in high school and managed to put my way through college. After ten years, I went to work for Coca Cola where I did installations and worked my way up into sales and became an area manager. Eventually, I jumped into this field, and I got into the dealer side of the commercial restaurant business. I was on that side for a good fourteen plus years. After that, I joined the Rep world and that is where I have been for about two and a half years now. This is also where I met Bill, Edzel, and some of our DFS team. After meeting the crew and discovering what the industry was looking for and what type of partnerships and relationships made sense; we decided to start our own business. 

Edzel Sarigumba: My background is in chemical engineering, go figure. I did that for a while, before deciding to shift over into finance. I’ve worked for larger Fortune 500 companies like United Airlines, Yum! Brands and Starbucks. Doing that is what took me into the food service industry; actually, working for a couple of those organizations. Once I got into the food service industry, I ended up working for a Rep company. I was there for about eight years, and I worked pretty close with Bill. The opportunity came about to join the DFS. Because of networking, relationships, and the fact that I like working with these guys, it was a great opportunity for all of us and here we are!

Bill Aleksandrian: I got into the restaurant business right after college. I opened a restaurant back in the Midwest and then made my way out here in 2000. I got into the Rep business in 2000 and did it for 21 years. I’ve loved every minute of it, but we as a group really felt like we could do it maybe a little bit differently. That is when we decided to take a look at creating DFS, Dedicated Foodservice Solutions. We realized that having thirty to forty brands under our umbrella did not allow us to focus or dedicate energy properly to our clients. Knowing that this is a total relationship business we said, “Okay, if we can build our team with incredible people, then we’ll be in business,” and it’s been terrific ever since. We felt like we could do a better job for our partners and make ourselves happier, creating synergies between the two. We are keeping it small, not many brands so we can really focus on both the end user and our brands, as well as ourselves. 

DFS team becoming Walk-In experts with our partners at Arctic

How are you guys approaching the markets that you operate in, which I understand are Southern California and Nevada? Obviously, the last few years have been challenging, where are you guys seeing things now and what’s your projection for the next three to five years? How does DFS play a role in that?

Raulie: We have one of the biggest markets in the country, if not the biggest market. When we put this together, Bill was saying that he wanted to make sure we have a team that can handle Southern California. It’s like putting the all-star team together. We have different people in different territories, who we’ve specifically assigned based upon their segment specialist. When we plan on what we’re going to do, it’s about what’s coming in the market. We can see what’s coming down the road, whether there’s school bids or there’s large projects, from some of our consultants and dealers. As we take on our A-list manufacturers and partners, we’re able to grow and get more feet on the ground. We absolutely need to have that because it gets us to more volume, gets us in front of the customers to show what we can do. As Bill was saying, we’ve grown and it’s a relationship business to where we’re treating people the way they want to be treated and not just, “Hey, you’re a customer, you’re an end user, you’re a dealer,” You are a person to DFS. 

Is there a specific trend or vertical within the market that you’re seeing accelerate? Are you guys looking at that as a way to just grow your business or stay where you’re at and just focus on consistency instead of excessive growth, at the risk of losing people?

Edzel: We do have growth goals and we realize that as we continue to grow, yet there’s a balance. A lot of businesses have the mindset of wanting to grow and wanting to take over the world. We feel like if we get past the point where we’re growing responsibly, then we’re no longer proactive and we’re not providing the bandwidth for our factories. It’s every bit as much of an art, as a science of trying to find that balance. We want to make sure that we’re viable and be able to provide those growth goals for our factories as well as for ourselves. We feel a responsibility for all of the employees that we bring on. Our task is to grow as a company, to grow our manufacturer sales, the ones that we’ve certainly partnered with and continue to look for opportunities.  If we’re sitting here five years down the road and we’re a thirty-line Rep group, then we haven’t done our job and we’re not living up to what we set out our philosophy that we’re building this organization on. 

Bill: We’re keyed on just a few of the best manufacturers in the industry. We’re very fortunate, we have an incredible team that have been around for a long time, that know what to do, that have the relationships, and have no fear. I think in our world that might be a trend. I think you’re going to see a lot of things related to AI coming around. I think our industry will eventually come around to it and we’re a little behind on stuff in the food service industry. Colleges and universities are already getting into these AI things, so we’re hoping that we’ll be able to partner up with companies like Arctic, that will promote that, and we’ll bring that into their system as well. We are doing a little bit more of a focused approach with our brands. It is going to allow us to succeed, maybe push each other more because we’re not outside of what our strengths are/. We’re able to push each other and that will benefit our partnerships with the manufacturers that we represent start becoming more prevalent.  

Edzel: I’ll add one important comment about the pandemic. One of the things that we always heard about was that there is more of a reliance on social media and more reliance on these channels that were designed for doing things a little bit more remotely. However, we’re now seeing that there’s not really a substitute for going out there and going face-to-face with demonstrations.  It is imperative to be showing how the product works, leveraging those relationships and the contacts that you have. 

Bill: We’ve got to be in front of people and social media is indeed huge. The Arctic’s 3D video allows customers to interact with the product without having to be with them in person. We want our customers to know that we’re out there doing what we’re supposed to be doing, but they’re also doing a lot of the research on their own because of the access they have to the internet. The 3D video where you can add things, pull things off, do whatever you want, is going to be super important in the future as we can direct customers there in advance. 

Bill Aleksandrian in action at NAFEM 2023

Why choose to work with Arctic, why now?  What about the Arctic team and product aligns with DFS?

Raulie: I was on the dealer side for about fourteen-fifteen years, so I’ve sold a lot of walk-ins. Before Arctic was out here in this area, it was Duracold, and when Arctic purchased Duracold, it was a great acquisition because Duracold was a great brand as well. It was well known, and it was something that fit the niche for everybody here in Southern California. Having a manufacturer here in your backyard does wonders for us. We have met some of the new team at Arctic, including John, Ben, and Brian, as well as some of the leadership team. It’s been clear since the beginning that they’re on a mission to build something based on Customer First culture. There’s a mission there and that’s why they bring somebody else like DFS on. When we saw the opportunity, they came knocking on our door and believe me, we would be knocking on their door if they hadn’t done it first. We discussed the potential partnership, and we thought it was a great opportunity as we have an A-team, and we like to partner with A-team partners! Arctic is a step ahead of everybody else and what you’re putting out there for the end users and customers. We keep saying it’s the food service industry, but we are in the service industry. We’re about taking care of people, servicing, growing accounts, and I believe Arctic is right on board with us. We’re walking hand-in-hand doing this together, and it’s going to be a great partnership!

Edzel: When we had a meeting with Brian, Ben, John, Bruce and Anna, we really got the sense that Arctic was trying to push the boundaries of customer care and Rep performance. The Arctic team is moving many elements in a positive direction on their end and also looking to the Rep’s role as well. We are happy that they considered us to be a part of that, it is an honor. There’s energy on the Arctic side and we certainly know that we’re bringing the energy on the DFS side. We felt that it was a no brainer and that it was going to be a terrific journey for our customers!

Bill: Raulie mentioned the East Coast and West Coast distribution centers, and this is outstanding for us because we’re a very chain heavy embedded group.  It made a lot of sense because the people were awesome, and we know the product is great. We have all worked with Arctic prior to this partnership, so we understood that the product is very good, and the team has really good processes in place. Our intention is to bring people into that factory and show them what we’ve got going with Arctic as often as possible!  This creates so many different synergies between our dealers and distributors. Price helps, but it’s not always about price. We’re the Principals, so we have to sell this downstream to the DFS team from a cultural perspective and the team cannot be more excited to work with Arctic. Having local, high-quality products, people we know and trust, and the similar cultures of customer focus made this an easy decision for DFS.  We also have a lot of relationships in the field that love to use Arctic already, so we are off to the races.

If you had to sum up DFS in 30 words or less, what would that look like?

Edzel: Everyone’s heard of the blocking and tackling, doing the basics, and the ABCs. For us, what are our ABCs? What are some of the basics, what defines us? The A) for us is A-list manufacturers, A-list people. If we get that, we provide bandwidth for our factories and if we have A-list people and then B), we have bandwidth that leads to C) camaraderie. Camaraderie not just amongst ourselves as a company, but with our partnered manufacturers. If we have those three things, that leads us to be who we are. Dedicated Foodservice Solutions.

Thank you all so much for your time!

Dedicated Foodservice Solutions leadership team.
From left to right: Craig Leets, Edzel Sarigumba, Bill Aleksandrian, Raulie Treadway.