|Years as a DSR||10 years|
|Annual sales volume||> $7 million|
|No. of active accounts||45|
|Territory||Miami, Dade County, Fla.and the surrounding area|
|Biggest attributes||Listening, patience and personality for the business|
|Best tools/support||Monthly sales meeting|
|Favorite categories||Disposables and packaging|
|Learned the hard way||Don't shoot for the big clients first|
|Always||Be honest and consistent|
|Never||Run from your customers|
|Top trends seeing||Green products, gluten free, local & sustainable|
|Mojo Motto||Handle the situation and just move on. Focus on the little things and the rest will fall into place.|
DSR of the Month
Experience gained firsthand as a foodservice business owner and operator for 36 years has been invaluable to both Howard Levrant and his customers. Levrant started at Cheney Brothers as a distributor sales representative in Miami 10 years ago, and is on target to sell close to $6 million this year and scheduled to do $8 million next year.
“It’s a great thing that I can be on the sales and end the retail end—both sides of the coin,” says Levrant. “I’m not a salesman by trade; I’m a business owner/operator.”
The south Florida native never runs from a challenge, and is always trying to help his customers.
“Howard establishes more than a relationship with his customers,” says Zenita Barouh, Levrant’s district sales manager. “It’s as if he becomes partners in their business, consulting with them regularly, which they greatly appreciate. He is a wealth of knowledge.”
One of the challenges Levrant is currently working on is convincing his small operators to consolidate and shorten their menus.
“The trend right now is smaller menus and seasonal products,” says Levrant. “From an inventory standpoint, control, profitability, there are so many advantages to having a smaller menu with daily specials.”
One customer in particular is a smaller breakfast/lunch café that’s been in operation for 25 years, but has a five-page menu. “I keep telling the owner, ‘You’ve gotta get rid of these items you only sell two or three times a week.’ I don’t know if he’s ever going to change.”
The majority of Levrant’s accounts are convenience stores and smaller owner/operators, though he also has a number of hotels, resorts and healthcare facilities.
“When I first started, for the first couple of months, I thought I was going to be able to go after these big monster accounts. I spent a few months spinning my wheels,” he admits. On the advice of another manager, he gave up on the big accounts and focused on the small ones, building his business one account at a time.
“It’s only in the last couple years I’ve been able to get some of the large, low margin accounts,” he says. “But they aren’t as much fun as the mom ‘n pop restaurants.”
When it comes to product knowledge, Levrant depends on the monthly sales and district meetings where 20 or more products may be introduced to the sales team. He also watches the Food Network, and talks to his chefs. “I’ve got one chef who reads everything and tells me about all the hot new products…because he wants them!”
Another big push for Levrant with his clients is better disposables. His own restaurants have been fast casuals and catering, with a lot of takeout options. He’s a big supporter of green products, and tries to encourage his clients to do the same. “There’s a lot of pushback because they don’t want to spend the money, but I try to tell them ‘you’ll sell more if customers know.’ You can’t get them away from that Styrofoam sometimes.”
Levrant has been recognized by Cheney Brothers in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2013 for accomplishing the required budgets and Gross Profit that the company requires. He received the Golden Circle Award and is a Gold level salesman.
The secret to his success is simply answering the phone and solving his customers’ problems. “I never look back. Every day is issues and problems—that’s the restaurant business. Just take care of them and move on.”