Michael Leffler’s journey through the foodservice industry began after college. He attended Tulane University in a city renowned for its food and drink – New Orleans. Leffler had originally planned to attend law school, but that changed after his grandfather hired him for a summer position at Admiration Foods.
After demonstrating an important skill set acquired through a variety of business classes, Leffler became an invaluable asset to his grandfather’s executive team. He would eventually serve as the CEO of Admiration Foods; growing the business through both strategic acquisitions and diversifying its product line until its sale in October 2016. And today, he has launched his next endeavor – Chefler Foods.
Working in a family business allowed Leffler to cultivate his skill set while providing him unique insight into the foodservice industry. In addition, it exposed him to various aspects of the business. “I was able to get a broader education on various facets of the business, including product development, engineering, marketing, and design. These experiences would not otherwise have been afforded to me by a traditional employer,” Leffler explained.
Leffler’s hands on involvement in a variety of the business aspects allowed him to develop unparalleled expertise and a distinctive approach to customer service. He possesses both a sales and a technical background, which is rare amongst CEOs, and has proven quite advantageous. “Knowledge gives you power in negotiations from a sales perspective. When I’m talking to a customer I can help them to introduce a new product, or to engineer a solution. The average sales person is not going to have the depth or the breadth of my experience, and that’s a huge advantage when going to market,” Leffler explained.
In addition to an exceptional skill set, Leffler possesses a solid understanding of the industry’s landscape. He incorporates his extensive knowledge of distribution into his foodservice-first approach. “In foodservice, you can reach large volume of people by selling to one distributor. With supermarkets selling a single customer, you can potentially reach hundreds or thousands of customers – Each gallon a distributor buys is a customer,” said Leffler.
After the sale of Admiration Foods, Leffler was not ready to call it quits. He has returned to the scene with a new company, Chefler Foods. “I came back because I wasn’t ready to retire. I don’t look at this business as ‘work’; I enjoy doing it. Over the past year, as opportunities presented themselves, I realized that I should reenter the industry while I’m still young and enjoying it,” Leffler stated.
After finding the right facility, Chefler Foods was in motion. Leffler’s goal was to locate a facility that could accommodate the volume. He ended up discovering a space in New Jersey that suited his specifications. “It’s large enough to house a vertical operation, which will include blow molding of all our own containers, as well as food manufacturing,” Leffler explained. The Chefler Foods’ facility will manufacture mayonnaise, salad dressings, cooking oils, vinegar products, and a variety of sauces.
Leffler came up with an interesting model for Chefler Foods. Rather than having a single name for all of the products, he has implemented multiple brands created specifically to target particular customers. “I decided to create a bunch of different brands in order to target niche markets within the food industry. For example, I have the Dolce Vita brand, which is designed with Italian distributors in mind, serving Italian restaurants and pizzerias,” said Leffler. In addition to the Dolce Vita line, Leffler developed the Dragon Chef brand for Asian cuisine. Chefler Foods will offer a full line of dressings, sauces, and mayonnaise under the Mike’s Amazing brand. The Super Chef banner will offer a line of products for the foodservice broadline distributor. “I don’t think a single brand could properly fit all solutions,” Leffler explained.
Another component to the Chefler Foods model is the company’s ability to provide products on short notice. Leffler is able to offer his clients exceptional customer service, second to none. “New York is a demanding market in which most distributors lack real estate and space. Chefler Foods is able to get our customers product immediately, whenever they may need it. I think that’s why distributors want to work with me. I like being in a business that allows me to help people when they need it,” Leffler said.
Chefler Foods offers a variety of food products, manufactured in their own facility. The company is also able to offer unmatched customer service. The top four employees at Chefler Foods boast a combined 100+ years of experience in food manufacturing and packaging. “Chefler Foods might be a new business, but we come with extensive experience, extraordinary service, and outstanding products,” said Leffler. Chefler Foods is a comprehensive approach to foodservice, well positioned to have a positive impact on the industry by solving distributor and operator needs.
To learn more about Chefler Foods, visit their website.