Q&A Bryan O’Rourke

Recently, TFS sat down with Bryan O’Rourke of Cardinal USA to talk about tabletop trends and what impact buying groups have had on the industry.

What brought you to foodservice?
I was always interested in food and beverage as a hobby. My background was in Wall Street, where I worked for Salomon Brothers. I moved to Washington, DC to be closer to my brother, who was starting a company down there, and I became friendly with the general manager of the Willard Intercontinental Hotel, and it turned into a job, and through that I met Richard Raphael at Cardinal Glass. I coordinated their standardization program at Marriott in 1995, and then from there became Sales Manager for the standardization program and worked my way up the ranks at Cardinal.

What is the most important quality in doing business today in Food Service?
People want to be able to trust the people they’re doing business with, and that’s what I bring into the equation. Their needs are identified through what I do best, which is to listen and execute. When I take into account what their needs are, I improve their buying experience. The fact that I’ve been on both sides of the desk gives me a big advantage. When you build trust into the equation, I believe that all parties win. There’s really no difference between what my dealers need and what my end-users need.

What impact have buying groups had on this industry?
It’s a very fine line to walk. Buying groups are looking for deals, and opportunities to take advantage of. But they also have to be held accountable for the relationships with manufacturers. I believe that you have to protect the people who protect you. We treat our clients with integrity, and we trust that they will act similarly towards us.

Do you think dealers will continue to be a major part of how our industry functions?
Absolutely. They have a vital role to play, managing the relationship between the end-user and the manufacturer. I think the Internet has actually helped dealers keep track of new products and really become the most educated consumers they can be.

Women’s Foodservice Forum February 2019 728×90

You’ve kept a lot of your manufacturing here in the United States. Why is that a priority for you?
For us, it’s a matter of values. I’m proud to be part of an organization that’s committed to US manufacturing and New Jersey manufacturing more specifically. Also, I like having the plant close to me, because I can walk onto the plant floor, and interact with everyone. It gives us all a sense of pride to produce the best glassware possible.

Do you think that the choice you’ve made would be viable in other industries? Are we poised for resurgence in American manufacturing?

It’s all about desire. If you take the risk, you’ll reap the rewards.

You have to really desire to do it –It’s a commitment that we believe in supporting. We had two advantages: we already had the factory in place, and we could build on an infrastructure that was already there. But for us, that’s part of a larger global strategy to manufacture close to our customers, and in local currency. The world is increasingly interconnected: the ups and downs of the economy in France affect us here in the US.

What makes great glass?
We make great glass because we have great equipment. But it’s also the knowledge of our staff at our plant in Millville, and also their commitment as well. We work hard to constantly invest in our people to ensure that they continue to produce that same high quality product day in and day out. This is where being privately owned is a huge advantage for us: it gives us the freedom to really invest in our people and our equipment, without having to constantly worry about shareholders.

What are some important steps for creating a “Green” product and is there any waste that can be recycled or re-used?
The most important step is the furnaces, in which the sand is melted down. Our furnaces get up to about 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. At this step in the process, we can separate out impurities to create clean and clear glassware. Arc has just invested $40 million to expand capacity and find new ways to reduce primary emissions from its glass furnaces. In fact, Millville, NJ now operates the cleanest and greenest glass making facility in the world. We use cullet, or waste glass in our materials mix to aid in the melting processes, and as a zero-waste plant, we donate any glass we can’t use to the state highway department for use in paving. For us, this is good smart manufacturing; this isn’t just a “Green” fad.

What trends do you see emerging in tabletop design?
You always have to introduce new products. Everyone’s always looking for the newest, best thing. The trends are driven by competition between restaurants, each of which wants to put their own personal seal on tabletop design. We design our collections around the needs of our clients. Especially with our high-end Chefs, Sommeliers and Mixologists – they’re always looking for something different, something that really expresses their creativity and complements the food that’s going to be plated and the drinks that are going to be poured.

Recently, we’ve seen sommelier and food manager communities grow in size and sophistication. How has that impacted the designs you take to market?
They want to have their core competencies taken care of. They want designs that are clear, crisp, and effective. With the wines in particular: we’re seeing a lot of young wines being poured these days. So we’ve designed a new line of wine glasses that helps to enhance the flavor of the wine.

What does the AJC honor mean to you?
It’s an unbelievable feeling to be recognized by customers, friends, and industry colleagues. It’s really important for me to give back, because I really care about the community and the people in it.

What does the future hold for you and for Cardinal?
We’re going to continue to invest in areas with potential for growth, and especially in our people. That’s what has led us to so much success, and that’s how we’re going to continue to grow and take advantage of new opportunities that arise.