A new name and new ownership for NOLA Restaurant Supply & Design

The more things change, some things stay the same. This is the case of NOLA Restaurant Supply & Design.

The New Orleans-based catering equipment and supplies dealership is now owned by Dustin Bennett. He represents the third generation of the Bennett family to own the business, whose roots date back to the mid-1950s. A succession plan completed earlier this summer saw Dustin Bennett take ownership of the business from his father Russell . In 1998, Russell did the same with his father, McNeely Bennett.

Although Dustin Bennett took ownership in 2022, he’s been running the company for years. In 2010, Russell suffered injuries that made it difficult for him to continue working at the company. Then, in 2013, longtime NOLA associate Otto Abad left the company to join Associated Foodservice Equipment, a Mississippi-based dealership. “I was in my mid to late twenties trying to figure it all out,” says Dustin Bennett. But he was not alone. “My dad was always available to me on the phone if I needed his guidance or advice.”

Accustomed to difficult times, Bennett has taken advantage of the pandemic to rethink the direction of the company, including its succession plan. “I was wondering what we could do to take it to the next level. I was on this hamster wheel, running the business and working in the business,” Bennett recalled.

In June 2020, with the help of a consultant, Bennett began to reshape the business. “It was a complete redevelopment of the business and it made me see the business in a way that I had never seen before,” he says.

One of the first things Bennett did was hire Stephen Dieck, CPA, to help him manage the financial side of the business. “We are on track with our goals and know what we need to accomplish each quarter,” added Bennett.

Bennett continues to add leadership to the company with the goal of accelerating its growth soon. For example, the company added Jonathan Hayon, who previously owned his own restaurant consulting firm in California. Additionally, Alvin Brannan, a restaurant industry veteran with over 25 years of experience, continues to represent the Austin, TX dealership. The company will also be looking to add someone in Shreveport, Louisiana.

“We intend to grow faster from 2023,” Bennett says. “Texas is our next stop. We plan to grow our presence there in the next few years, then in the Florida Panhandle. By building a team with people who are optimistic about the industry and want to grow, we can create a new business that will succeed and prosper. People around me are not afraid of what might happen. Also, I have surrounded myself with other business owners and as a result, I have better insight. A everyone to push themselves and imagine new solutions.It’s like the old cliché if you’re given lemons, you have to make lemonade.

In addition to the geographic directions Bennett would like to see the business grow, he also has a vision for how it will grow. “Projects are the easy and easy-to-grasp fruit for us to grow through this method,” he says. “Longer term, I would like to be a brick and mortar accessible to local restaurateurs.”

What about e-commerce? “We’re still trying to navigate those waters,” Bennett says. “It gets tricky when you try to navigate those design-build waters. But we want to build something for the e-commerce side.

And starting in January 2023, NOLA Restaurant Supply & Design will begin doing business under a new name: The Kitchen Guys. It’s a nickname that Russell Bennett coined a few years ago. “We think it’s doing better nationally,” says Dustin Bennett. “People think you’re just selling spoons and forks, but there’s a lot more to it when you start looking closely.”

Despite the countless macroeconomic challenges the restaurant industry continues to face, Bennett sees opportunities on the horizon. “The food will always be there. People will always need to eat,” he says. “With robotics and automation, our industry is about to see many changes, and we want to be ready to deploy these creative solutions for our customers.”

And, of course, there’s a strong connection to his roots and more that combine to drive Bennett. “The reason I got into this business was because of my family. I wanted to continue our family legacy,” he says. “And now I’ve had the chance to see how we can impact the world around us. All of us in the restaurant industry help feed people. We are more committed to community service and our 10-year goal is to give $1 million to feed people.

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