Total Food Service sat down with Laurie Burns from Forty One Madison to discuss the company’s origins, initiatives, and the upcoming New York Tabletop Show.
When did you assume your role at Forty One Madison?
I began my current role as Senior Vice President and Director in 2008, and have been attending the New York Tabletop Show at Forty One Madison each spring and fall when it’s held since May of 1986.
How was the concept for Forty One Madison conceived? How has it evolved?
We opened in the late 70’s with Rosenthal, Wedgwood, Noritake, and Mikasa showrooms all anchoring this new building, and that marked the start of The New York Tabletop Show. Its evolution and success are due to the fact that the greatest factories of tableware and the greatest brands selected this location as their home and base of operations in the North American marketplace. We now have more than 120 leading brands occupying 24 floors of the building.
Many have always thought of Forty One Madison as catering to only the retail buyer? How is that changing?
That myth needs to be shattered. The great factories that are represented here have always been open to and receptive to working directly with restaurateurs and chefs, purchasing agents, and even interior design and architectural firms who specify for hospitality and other commercial clients. Some have dedicated sales associates or rep firms that deal exclusively with the foodservice and hospitality segment. For several years when our Fall show had a November date there was crossover interest with the International Hotel, Motel & Restaurant Show (now known as HX: The Hotel Experience), and that helped acquaint more of the hospitality industry with Forty One Madison as a yearlong tabletop resource. Of course, more recently the Internet also has directed many more visitors from foodservice and hospitality to our doors, and it’s also significant that we have recently added two ‘foodservice only” showrooms — RAK and Bauscher Hepp Taflestern, both meeting our original mantra to attract the greatest tableware factories in the world.
What does Forty One Madison offer the food service and hospitality professional? NYC convenience?
Yes, the convenience of New York City is definitely among the benefits for the foodservice and hospitality professional to come to FortyOne Madison. NYC is, after all, a culinary mecca as well as a hub of commerce. Visit during New York Tabletop Show week, and there’s an opportunity for meeting face-to-face with factory owners and executives and establishing a personal relationship with them which can be a huge advantage in doing business. It’s also the best time to get a head start on seeing what’s new, next and trending in tabletop and barware, and meeting with reps, distributors and suppliers to discuss your account. With at least 84 brands that do business with the foodservice and hospitality segment all under one roof, this means one-stop shopping can be achieved for just about every front-of-the house needs. While Show week is optimum, yearlong access is possible, as well, most often by appointment.
With so many showrooms in your facility, how do you suggest a buyer maximize their visit? Is there a central concierge or an app that can help pre-plan what a busy foodservice buyer may be looking for?
Everyone should use the app. It has product by category, and links you directly to a showroom to make an appointment.
What are the benefits of shopping at the Forty One Madison showrooms versus trying to source tabletop solutions online?
Nothing is better than seeing, touching, and feeling product that you are going to buy and use. Many showrooms are valuable sources of inspiration on how to create the perfect ambiance for an impressive dining experience, with suggestive vignettes and displays. And, as previously mentioned, experts are here from the brands, offering an opportunity to answer questions, share information and discuss specific product and/or customer service needs.
What strategies could be implemented to increase visits from restaurants, caterers and hotels within the hospitality industry?
Word-of-mouth has proven to be the optimum way for hospitality visitors to know about Forty One Madison and the breadth of tabletop showrooms housed here. A week doesn’t go by that we’re not registering a chef, restaurateur, interior designer or others from the foodservice industry on the hunt for something in the tabletop category – barware, dinnerware, flatware, serveware, cookware, cutlery. Because showrooms are accessible yearlong and not only during Show periods, these customers value FortyOne as a resource. And, the individual brands that are here are much savvier about building this component of their business, employing dedicated sales staff or reps for this segment and offering the specialized products and services they demand.
You are going to host a special show next month at Forty One Madison. Talk about some of the special events that will be taking place?
Yes, October 17-20 is the Fall 2017 edition of The New York Tabletop Show. Forty One Madison hosts the four-day show annually each Spring and Fall. The three top reasons for someone in foodservice or hospitality to come during the show are:
- All showrooms are open – no need for an appointment.
- Company executives are here from around the world, visitors can meet directly with them to talk business and find solutions.
- Trend shopping and see new product launches – visitors can see the latest trends from many vendors all in one place.
What is the future of Forty One Madison?
The future is as bright as ever for Forty One Madison. Presently, our showroom floors are fully occupied with no vacancies available. Recent additions to our roster join others in offering products of interest to the foodservice and hospitality segment – of the 120 brands represented here, 84 work with this sector and many maintain on-staff or independent sales associates knowledgeable in working this specialized field. Moreover, the range of brands reflects a vibrant marketplace for tabletop products at all price points. Forty One Madison is a valuable, yearlong accessible resource and a must visit location for the foodservice professional who’s in the market for tableware.
To register for the upcoming Forty One Madison Show, please visit their website.