Let's Get Personal: Getting to Know Geoff
Updated: 4 days ago
One of our newest team members, Geoff Kwale, recently went on a month-long trip to Africa and Europe. We wanted to learn more about Geoff, including how he got into the foodservice industry and what he did on his trip abroad. After interviewing him, we achieved a clear insight to the breadth of his knowledge and experience.
Where did you work before coming to elite|studio e?
I’ve had my own business for the past 32 years. I own a foodservice design and consulting firm, called QUALMARK GROUP, INC., that does work overseas, where I am currently the Principal. My company and its collaborating dealers/distributors are based in West Africa. 90% of our projects are in Nigeria and the rest are in neighboring countries.
How did you get into foodservice?
While in college, studying Marketing, I was working in telephone sales (as it was called then), which is how I formed a background in sales and marketing. The professor recommended that our options were to go into pharmaceuticals sales, food processing or foodservice. Though I’d also worked in an Internal Sales and Customer care position at P. C. Richard & Sons' wholesale division, I subsequently got into foodservice employed as a Customer Service Representative at Advance Tabco.
About two years afterwards, I was appointed a Regional Sales Manager covering parts of the Metro New York area. Three years later, an independent sales firm was formed with my counterpart. A few changes came along and I started my own business, first continuing as a MAFSI Rep and transitioning to the Design and Consulting business overseas.
How many years have you been in foodservice consulting?
Why did you build your business?
I’m a purpose-driven person by nature. Once I latched on to foodservice, I had to focus on the motivation. When I went from being a MAFSI Representative to being purely a design consultant, I decided to go overseas because the industry there was fresh and still growing rapidly. I understood international standards and could offer my expertise there.
How is foodservice consulting different in Africa?
The way people think about foodservice is tied to their cultures. In the same way languages have dialects, there are different dialects, or expressions, of foodservice in every culture and location.
Western Africa didn't have institutions that control foodservice infrastructure or the full enforcement regime that we have here. The standards that are in place in America are a combination of initiatives from the private sector and the government. This was not the case in sub-Sahara Africa. Entrenched protocols were lacking. People could decide to build commercial kitchens based on familiar local standards or the food they are cooking.
Much of the sub-Saharan African diet is based on food cooked over an open flame. For this, they need less complicated equipment.
What is your favorite project and why?
I have two favorite projects. The first was Genesis Cinemas in Nigeria about 12 years ago. This is a family entertainment center that included a food court and it was the very first family entertainment center in that city and in Nigeria. It was a $600,000 project, so the scale was quite large. I enjoyed working on this project because it allowed me to apply the full spectrum of my skills as a consultant, which helped establish the brand.
My second favorite project was Sbarro’s expansion into malls. I was privileged to be in the room during the early design considerations for the mall rollouts. Though I was just a factory sales representative at the time, I unofficially became part of the design team. Subsequently, my role earned me many of the orders for the stainless steel items.
What do you like most about your job?
The best part about my job at elite|studio e is that it allows me to be me. Every organization has a personality determined by the owners and promoters of the business. I get to go out, meet people and generate long-lasting relationships, all while being myself, the "diseased extrovert."
I am result driven, so I am always thinking about what the outcome of my actions will be. I calculate everything and try to figure out how my actions will correlate with results and numbers down the road. It is an organic process for me.
What did you do on your recent trip?
The focus of my recent trip to Africa and Europe was to update my industry connections and exposure. I haven’t attended any of the last 3 main exhibitions that were held in Europe. I needed to properly reconnect, especially with my peers in FCSI, EMEA, so I attended the Host Milan exhibition in Italy.
The exhibitions are educational exercises and it’s critical that I educate myself more and achieve more exposure.
Host Milano: What kind of equipment did you see? What might be most applicable to our world and why?
While I was there, I was exposed to new protocol initiatives in FCSI. They now have the International Food Service Equipment Building Information Modelling (IFSE BIM) Standard, which they have been working on for about 10 years under the auspices of all the continental industry organizations, including NAFEM. The aim is “to provide an open, international platform for those with expert/industry specific knowledge to come together to develop a common platform for the exchange of BIM (Building Information Modelling) data and information relating to the design of foodservice kitchens. These are international standards that pertain to our industry.” This was the highlight of the show for me.
I also enjoyed noticing that sous vide is becoming more popular as a cooking method. “Sous vide (pronounced sue-veed) is a cooking technique that utilizes precise temperature control to deliver consistent, restaurant-quality results.” There were many people doing demonstrations of this cooking.
One thing that really impressed me was the sheer size of the exhibition. The venue, Fieramilano, stretches to more than half a mile in length and the number of exhibitors was immense. Coffee alone had two pavilions dedicated to it. There was no major manufacturer in the industry that wasn’t there.
A good number of our industry's innovations come from Europe, so it’s good to go and learn what’s new and trending. I have the unique advantage of understanding 260 degrees of the sector on both sides of the Atlantic.
Above: Earlier this year, Geoff had the opportunity to connect with several individuals at National Association of College and University Food Services (NACFUS) Conference in Baltimore, MD, and the National Association of College Auxiliary Services (NACAS) in Toronto, Canada.