Whether chef or sales manager - what remains is the catering industry

As a young boy, Oliver Weller spent many school holidays looking over his godfather’s shoulder as he chopped vegetables, seared meat and prepared dishes in the restaurant kitchen. Motivated, Oliver took the path of a chef and realised that the industry was a good fit. After 15 years, he switched from the kitchen to sales at R Express.

Oliver Weller R Express

What’s it all about?

  • Colourful, sweet and creative: it all started with a passion for confectionary and pastries
  • From pasta-loving chef to junior sales representative: why?
  • He’s driven by customer centricity, team spirit and a fondness for fresh products

If you have restaurateurs in your family, you develop a familiarity with the profession of chef at a young age. ‘My enthusiasm for the profession was aroused. I found cooking exciting. The creativity involved in arranging the dishes made a big impression on me – though eating the food was the absolute highlight, of course’, Oliver reminisces.

A passion for cooking

Given the history, the career choice was very obvious from the start. Oliver’s career in the hospitality industry began with an apprenticeship as a chef in a small castle hotel in the Vulkaneifel district, called the ‘Kurfürstliches Amtshaus Daun’. This is where he discovered his passion for confectionary and pastries. After his apprenticeship and a stint in the German Federal Armed Forces, he spent a year at the ‘Leeberghof’ on Lake Tegernsee. He gained further experience at the ‘Hopfenspeicher’ in Hanover before moving to the BVB Borussia football club restaurant ‘Lennhof’ in Dortmund. At this location, Oliver developed a passion for pasta as well as fish and meat preparation. One day, he and the head chef of Lennhof decided to open the restaurant ‘Jacobs’, his first stop as head chef. He also held this position in his last kitchen ‘Am Schänzchen’ before deciding to take a different path after 15 years. He switched to sales. Why? ‘To be honest, I simply wanted to spend more time with my family. Working weekends wasn’t compatible with my family life. That’s why I decided to abandon my dream of being a chef, but without turning my back on the hospitality industry.’ After all, his passion for the hospitality industry, for culinary delights and for fresh, high-quality food was still burning deep within him. He wanted to change careers but remain in the hospitality industry. ‘And so, I decided to switch sides, so to speak. Instead of preparing the goods, I wanted to procure them’, says Oliver. At least in a professional sense. After all, in his personal life, he still loves to cook for friends and family as well as for celebrations and festivities.

Oliver Weller’s career at R Express:

  • 2003: Started as a junior sales representative at the headquarters in Meckenheim
  • 2006: Promotion to senior sales representative
  • 2012: Took over as team leader of the sales department in Meckenheim
  • 2018: Promotion to head of hospitality sales

Family-friendly work schedule at the supplier

Oliver has been with the R Express delivery company since his apprenticeship. The variety, distinctive characteristic and freshness of the supplier’s products impressed him and prompted him to submit an unsolicited application. Oliver adds that ‘the head of R Express at the time, Georg W. Kastner, left a lasting impression on me with his enthusiasm and expertise as well as his knowledge of the products and the restaurant scene.’ Since his career change, the pasta lover has been inspiring restaurateurs to use R Express products by explaining how they can be turned into stunning dishes. Busily expanding or revising the product range with his colleagues, he’s constantly learning new things – as the needs of restaurateurs are much broader than they were a few years ago.

Advice for young chefs:

Stay in the hospitality industry and the kitchen for as long as you can. Figure out what works for you. Working in hospitality is great and the guests will always appreciate your work.

Advice for sales representatives:

Be yourself. Always be honest and fair to your customer. See your customer as a business partner and yourself as your customer’s advocate. You are the one who represents the customer. You work in the interest of the company as well as the customer. The customer will thank you with assignments and consistent orders.

Suppliers are crucial for the hospitality industry

Within 15 years, Oliver has risen from junior sales representative to head of hospitality sales at R Express. He has now held this position for five years. His key task is active sales. ‘I manage our sales team and I’m in charge of personnel and budgets. But that’s not all. I also manage promotions, sales and discount offers and I handle the pricing policy. I’m responsible for managing the range of seasonal items too’, says Oliver, describing his role. Seasonal items are an important part of R Express’ product range. The supplier provides its customers with chanterelles, asparagus and strawberries when they’re in season. Oliver knows from his own experience that restaurateurs need a fast and reliable supply of fresh, high-quality goods. ‘I care about the quality and preservation of the German hospitality industry.’

Communication is key

The hospitality sales manager meets frequently with other departments at R Express, including the management, purchasing, dispatch, warehouse, vehicle fleet and marketing. Effective communication is vital towards ensuring that processes work and business runs smoothly. But communication isn’t just crucial when it comes to running a successful business. It’s also a key factor in understanding what moves the industry. That’s why Oliver exchanges ideas with other suppliers and attends trade fairs and industry events. But the most important insights still come from direct customer contact: ‘We’re the point of contact for customers when they have technical questions and to help them solve specific problems or challenges.’

METRO currently supplies restaurateurs from 671 stores and 66 warehouses worldwide.

Culinary delights delivered by METRO

Time savings for restaurateurs are offered by the METRO delivery service - daily around the clock - and the delivery companies. Who are they and what do they deliver?

Competent advice is based on experience

The hospitality sales team handles the challenging task of getting the goods to the restaurateurs. The delivery business used to be predictable for the long term. However, nowadays orders are received at short notice. ‘This is our strength, as we are able to deliver orders for fresh goods received on Mondays on Tuesdays’, says Oliver. He also benefits from his background as a restaurateur – which he can frequently put to good use at kitchen parties when he supports the restaurateurs at industry events. ‘Apart from me, a majority of the R Express team once worked in the hospitality industry. That’s why we know and understand the challenges our customers face – from human resources and operational processes to product requirements and costing principles.’ Oliver’s now been working at R Express for 21 years. Besides his passion for food, what keeps him going is his close and direct contact with the restaurateurs he’s known and supported for years. Another important factor is the relationships with his long-standing colleagues – some of whom have become close friends and family. Together with his team, the sales manager wants to break new ground and keep up with the latest trends – while remaining true to the humble beginnings of R Express. The supplier’s well known for working in a way that’s nothing short of astounding in terms of innovative flair, creativity, unique quality, speed and reliability – or as Oliver puts it: ‘Express Service’.

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