A true pioneer and pillar of the foodservice sector, Jacques Seguin—the president of Garland Canada until his retirement late last year—was a trailblazer for decades in the industry because of his approachability and commitment to improvement.
Seguin worked for Garland Canada for over 30 years, starting out in the industry as a young college graduate just looking for a job. Says Seguin, “I grew up in a large family, in the small town of Mattawa in Northern Ontario. I attended Canadore College where I received a great education in Business Administration. In 1985, I needed a job to pay off my student debt and, through a family friend, managed to get an interview and was hired in a customer service role at Garland Canada in Mississauga. At the time, I did not know that I was entering a great industry and working for an iconic company. I progressed into various marketing, sales, operations, and corporate roles.”
Speaking to Seguin is an exercise in sincerity. He talks with humour and conviction about what works and where he thinks the industry is headed. He believes the hospitality industry plays a vital role in our society. “People need to renew and refresh, and we love to do it around food and drink,” says Seguin. But, the pace of change continues to accelerate. For Seguin, being in a dynamic industry is both challenging and exciting, where business drives innovation and innovation drives business. “I think, right now, the biggest thing that our customers are talking about is automation,” he says. And automation, says Seguin, is the solution to many of the labour and cost pressures facing the industry today.
As a global equipment maker, Garland Canada is on the front lines and, says Seguin, the company must learn while it creates. Always “putting money aside to incubate, to invest, or explore…” This leads to custom innovations that—while initially designed for one customer—end up benefitting the industry as a whole. Seguin credits customers with being the drivers of innovation. “We are in an enviable position that some of the world’s largest, most sophisticated customers seek us out and say, ‘Can you help me?’ And I have had many discussions with executives that tell me that we are the only company that can do this, and solve this problem. So, it is like, ‘okay that is pretty cool.’”
Seguin emphasizes the importance of keeping an eye on the big picture. He suggests looking at the kitchen as a system and asking yourself what the outputs are that you’re trying to create? And how can you optimize the equipment, the number of pieces of equipment that are in there, the functions they can perform, and the flow of them? He wants foodservice operators to be enabled to do more with less, master efficiency, and create a better product for a lower cost. “That’s another part about strategy, not just looking at the individual pieces we make, but look at the whole kitchen…We have to understand the relationship between the equipment, the food, and the people,” he says.
Sustainability is the driver of innovation today according to Seguin. “For sure. If you look at our ice machines, sanitation, water consumption, if you look at refrigerants; we are using the highest quality refrigerants with the lowest emissions. We measure how much energy our products consume; how do we get it to consume less and go on standby mode? Heat up faster? All around the product designs are heavily influenced by sustainability. Whether it is energy consumption, water consumption, and so on. It’s part of what we do.”
“We are part of a company called Welbilt which is a US-based coalition now with a global footprint. Garland Canada is one of the brands within the portfolio. And one of the neat things about Garland Canada is…we design, manufacture, and export into over 100 countries. Which is unusual for a Canadian based company. So, you can go around the world and walk into a restaurant, and there’s a Garland range,” says Seguin. In an age of international trade, how has Garland Canada’s business kept up in general with trade agreements and changing political tides? “We staff our organization with diversity to reflect our customer base. We sell in many countries, we need a lot of complexities, and cultures, languages and things like that. As a Canadian company, you have to be conscious of those and have to stay in tune with them. And one of the ways to do that is to have a diverse workforce. We also work at being inclusive, in our management staff, and making sure everybody has a voice and contributes to the success of the business.”
And is there a product that stands out for Seguin, today? The “product in the portfolio right now that’s the fastest growing is the accelerated cooking ovens and Merrychef.” Seguin says that the company is growing that business substantially. The second product category that stands out for him is Combi Ovens. Seguin says we’re in the digital age and we need to embrace it wholeheartedly. I suggest to Seguin that “they will have a Merrychef on the Starship Enterprise, right?”
“Yeah, for sure,” he says, “a few of them.”