1704: Ken Blazevich, DSR of the Month, Get Fresh Produce, Chicago, IL – First Few Years, Prospecting, and Making That First Call

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“When dining at a prospect’s operation, it’s good to get a feel for the vibe of a place so you know how to continue working towards helping them.”  ~ Ken Blazevich

Ken Blazevich of Get Fresh Produce Inc., based in the Chicago suburb of Bartlett, IL is AFDR’s DSR of the Month for February 2024, earning him a permanent place in the AFDR DSR Hall of Fame.

Ken’s territory includes the Western suburbs of Chicago which are around 30 miles from the warehouse. He also lives in his sales territory.

Ken started in the foodservice business in 1984 working at Gonnella Baking Company, a specialty bakery distributor and manufacturing company, based in the Chicago area. Blazevich worked at Gonnella for approximately ten years before moving to Sysco, a company he calls a true foodservice distributor. Ken worked at Sysco from 1995 – 2007, then with US Foods from 2007 – 2012, and with PFG from 2012 – 2015 before landing at Get Fresh Produce in August of 2015.

Working at Gonnella Baking Company for ten years developed Blazevich into a bakery specialist calling himself a “Bread Snob.” Ken pointed out that to this day, a bread guy’s day off is still Wednesday and Sunday. Many operators do not get fresh bread delivered on either of those days.

After learning the bakery products, Ken said it did not really matter which distributor he worked with, he always was on a mission to learn more about all products and still is. It is simply part of the job and has never really been an issue for him.

This DSR of the Month says that the business is tougher today than it was back when he first began. “It was fun and easy back then.” There were quite a few big volume restaurants that sold beef sandwiches and purchased a ton of French bread and some of them remain popular today like Al’s #1 Beef and Mr. Beef on Orleans St. Mr. Beef is the restaurant in which the popular series, “The Bear” came from as a fictional reimaging of Mr. Beef.

“I actually delivered bread to Mr. Beef every Wednesday (which was a regular bread-guy’s day off) and ate lunch there about 70% of the time.”

Ken and DSR Dave have a good discussion on how Ken prospects for new accounts researching using Google, Trip Advisor, and social media. He also likes to visit the operation to gain more intel by eating there, and if he really wants to find out which brands they are using or how many cases of a product they might use, he even does a little “dumpster diving.”

Ken leads with produce and always asks if they’re happy with their produce supplier. He asks if they get enough deliveries and if they’re happy with the fresh product. And sometimes he gets honest answers.

Other topics discussed in this Podcast Episode:

  • How to respond when a prospect says they are happy with their current supplier.
  • How many times do you go back when they say they don’t need another supplier?
  • Do you ever give up on an account you really want?
  • Flags go up when he sits down at a prospect’s, and they have four different distributor brands of sugar packs on the table.
  • Delivery times might be the magic questions for a prospect. Can you meet the day and time window better than your competitors?
  • Local produce versus year-round supplier in Chicago.
  • Quality or storage which is more important to an operator?
  • When dining there, it’s good to access the vibe of a prospect so you know how to continue working towards helping them.
  • Why “change” is his biggest competitor.

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