In my completely biased opinion, this woman is as authentic as they come. Witty, relatable, a passionate learner. Kristen Ritchie is Chrane Foodservice Solutions’ Territory Manager for South and Central Texas, primarily working with K-12 Accounts and Distributors, and she is based out of San Antonio. As someone that works with her on a regular basis, I can confidently say that Kristen inspires me to become a strong female in the industry. A graduate from Oklahoma State University (Go Pokes!) with a degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management, she has spent much of her professional life in the foodservice industry in a variety of roles: server, bartender, sandwich maker, cook, school foodservice director, caterer, owner/operator, distributor sales and menu specialist. This one is going to be a treat!
How long have you been in the foodservice equipment and supplies industry?
Ever since high school. I started working at a sandwich place in Enid, OK called the Cheese Shop and have basically been in the industry ever since.
What is your ‘why’?
Our industry is simply the best. There is a reason that I have never strayed too far from the foodservice/hospitality industry. I went into medical device sales very briefly and learned QUICKLY that people in the foodservice industry are the absolute BEST. The people are the most honest, direct. They know when they want it and what exactly, or I get to help them find the solution. I would say the people are generally happier too. Also, I really love food and drinking.
What would you say is your biggest accomplishment professionally or personally?
Fear can be debilitating when it comes to barriers. Fear of failure, not being accepted. In the last few years, I’ve been able to establish myself as a respected member of the community. People and customers respect my opinion and I’m proud of that. Because I’ve been successful in my work life, I’ve been able to create a home that I love! I’m able to travel. I’m proud that I can do all those things based on my own merit and hard work.
Who has been a role model to you?
Since I was 10-years old, Julia Child.
How have you built confidence and resilience over the years?
Recognizing your value and worth. Not only professionally, but in a personal manner too. Being grateful for what you are and what you have. Once you are content knowing you do a good job and work as hard as you can, it’s very satisfying. That gives you the confidence to do what you want.
Confidence comes with doing your homework and being prepared, knowing that you are getting the work done. Through that, people look at you with faith. People can count on you or rely on you, knowing that is comforting. It means something to meet your own (or exceed) expectations!
As a leader, how do you stay mindful of being inclusive or promote inclusivity?
I try to promote inclusion by refusing to be excluded. By that, I mean that I will not be left out of the game because my gender/beliefs/whatever it may be. Give everyone a chance, treat others the way you want to be treated and call people out when they are not playing fairly. What matters most to me is simple… Are you a good person? Are you supportive? Are you fun to be around? Look for qualities that matter in a person and include them every chance you get.
Can you touch on the ‘gap’ of females in the foodservice industry?
The gap. The gap is touchy. The gap is something that no one wants to talk about because it is uncomfortable. I don’t like to talk about the fact that I believe that I have been passed over for promotions for a less qualified candidate who happens to be a man. I don’t like to admit that I have, in my long career, been paid less than my male counterparts who are doing the same job. I don’t like to talk about the fact that men have looked directly over my head to ask the guy behind me a question that should have been directed to me. I hate getting the “limp handshake” from a man after he just gave my colleague a hardy handshake.
What I do like to talk about is how hard that I have worked to get where I am. I love to talk about the passion that I have for this industry and how happy it makes me to be a part of it. I love the folks that I have chosen to surround myself with and focus on the strengths and good qualities each of them has, not the chromosome that they may lack.
The gap exists but I believe that it is narrowing. The gap may keep out some top-notch female talent away from our industry. It is our collective responsibility to close the gap.
How do you find balance? Is there such a thing?
Yes, there is such a thing. The trick for me is to realize that I am not completely defined by my work and that life outside of work is a healthy thing. I am proud to work at Chrane. I enjoy working at Chrane. But, I am not here on this earth ONLY to work at Chrane. I am lucky enough to have a job that allows me to enjoy time away.
Do you have a funny anecdote about being a woman in foodservice? Any story you feel is relevant!
It’s always funny to me how often men say ‘pardon my language’ in front of me. I don’t think anyone would say that I am afraid of a well-placed curse word...
What else would you be doing if it wasn’t this?
Can’t imagine doing anything else! If money were no object… a Chef maybe. I’d love to own a restaurant and a little bakery.
There you have it! A trusted friend, fellow graduate from Oklahoma State, and leader that I aspire to be one day. The lessons I’ve learned from Kristen are priceless. She even leads our ‘Campfire Chats’ during quarterly sales meetings at Chrane FS, because she comes from a place of wanting us all to better ourselves as an organization. Many women let fear overcome them when discussing 'touchy' subjects, and many men don't acknowledge it. Chrane FS gives us the platform to do so, while we never actively want to speak negatively about either gender. Let's make one another better, right?! I couldn't have asked for a more genuine person to feature. When I first started my career with Chrane back in 2018, I thought she was the coolest person I’d ever met. Fast forward to almost 5 years later, I think she is the coolest person I’ve ever met.
Kristen's TOP PICK:
No favorites here... She loves all Chrane Manufacturer Partners!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
This article was written by Meredith Mulliken, Chrane's Marketing Manager, to shine light on all the great women she looks up to in foodservice. This blog is designed to share the wealth of knowledge from females that helped pave the road map and excite new, young professionals to join our amazing industry.