Heidi Ostberg, Rapids Foodservice Contract and Design
Heidi Ostberg’s career path is a unique one. Out of college, she began working for a local custom stainless-steel fabricator preparing shop drawings, then moved into a design specialist role for a foodservice equipment and supplies dealer. After that, she had a brief stint with an architectural firm, where she handled the architectural plan sets for primarily restaurant projects. This is where she found herself drawn yet again to the foodservice equipment industry. “I cared more about what you would see looking through the pass-through window of the kitchen than what you would see when you look at the windows of the building. I always thought architecture was what I wanted to do, but when I found this niche foodservice design market, it completely fit,” she says.
Ostberg’s husband, Alex, who now owns his own foodservice equipment installation company and often works with Rapids Foodservice Contract and Design, suggested she look into a career with the dealer in its Twin Cities office. Ostberg did just that and has never looked back.
Ostberg’s book of business as a contract and design specialist at Rapids includes a variety of restaurants, hotels, colleges, and healthcare foodservice owners and operators. She is rightly proud of the fact that her book of business has grown exclusively through referrals.
Q: Your background is diverse, including experience with a fabricator, an architecture firm and now two dealers. How does that shape your approach to projects?
A: I am very design driven. I always make sure the space works. Coming from a family that works in construction, I designed my own house, and my husband and I built much of it with our own hands. So, when it comes to things like electrical, plumbing and mechanical, I have seen it and done it. I am a salesperson too; you must know what you are selling and know the detail of the equipment. My projects are design driven first, and this plays into everything I do. If you need someone to truly walk you through the process from design through the final punch list as an integral part of your team, my background allows me to walk with you every step of the way.
Q: What is it about equipment and design that keeps you so engaged?
A: Someone once told me, “If you make it to two years in the foodservice industry, you are in it for life.” And that was a very true statement. To this day, for instance, I still love custom stainless shop drawings. I did not find as much joy with the exterior building portion of it. I found I would rather take the architect’s plan of the shell and fill the interior with all of the intricate details that a foodservice establishment has, from the kitchen to the bar as well as the millwork, lay out and perhaps help select the furniture. The amount of detail you must put into kitchens kept pulling me back to this niche part of the industry.
Q: You’re known for having an ability to look ahead and prevent problems before they occur. What goes into making that happen?
A: My experience is that dealers rarely look at the full, possible 200-page set of architectural and MEP [mechanical, electrical and plumbing] drawings. I print out all pertinent sheets and go through them to make sure everything jives with the kitchen equipment’s requirements. I feel like most projects don’t get a final coordination at the end when it comes to the foodservice areas. I always make sure the architect, MEP engineers and myself all coordinate the final details. I am always utilizing the knowledge gained from my background to problem solve, and it helps build trust with the client and project team.