Darin’s territory is the island of Oahu where his warehouse is located.
Darin has been in the foodservice business most of his life as he helped his mother when on summer breaks cleaning floors and the rest of the cafeteria facilities in a K-12 school operation where she is a cafeteria manager (retiring soon) for the Department of Education of Hawaii.
Fajota started working in a small sushi restaurant at age 16. After graduating from high school, he wanted to go to culinary school, but his parents offered support if he attended a four-year college degree program so he ended up getting a marketing degree at Loyola Marymount University in California. He worked his way through college by serving at a country club and a Japanese restaurant around LA. After college he was hired as an assistant manager at Gyu-Kaju Japanese BBQ, a chain from Japan where he worked and became the general manager.
After 7 years at that restaurant, he checked into Y. Hata and found it was a good fit. He took all his restaurant experience, hard work ethic, desire to please the customer and passion for food into this new job. Darin worked in customer service for 6 months, then was offered a street route. With the support of his sales director and management who believed in him, Fajota focused on growing the accounts that were already receiving product deliveries from Y. Hata.
Learning products takes time, but it took at least 6 months to a year to be comfortable when discussing products. If Darin didn’t know the answers for sure, he would tell them he wanted to double-check with his specialists, merchandisers or buyers first and then follow up with the customer. They appreciated his honesty versus him lying or giving them a halfway BS answer.
Lying is short term thinking.
Fajota’s goal in those first 6 months was building the relationships with the customers, listening and asking the right questions and being humble. Then come back with the follow up of suggestions or products. When he’s after a new account, he eats in the restaurants a couple times talking to the server and maybe after that a manager and eventually asks whether they’re happy with their current distributor, any issues or needs that are not being filled that Y. Hata may be a solution to. He keeps this encounter casual, with no lap top and not much note taking.
Darin has 42 accounts and considers them 42 lifetime friends. Darin finished this interview by saying, “We are blessed in an industry where we can change people’s lives and not just sell products. We have a powerful position in this industry.”