A force of nature. The woman who comes to my mind is who I had the pleasure of sitting down with to pick her brain, and now I’m able to shine some light on her journey. Zena Dater, the VP of Sales at Market Source in Oklahoma, is determined with a strong work ethic and always makes sure that her customers are the number one priority. Now it’s time to share the lessons I learned through picking her brain about being a female in the foodservice industry, are you ready to dive into a few details?

How did you get started in the industry?

I was 13 when I started my first job as a carhop (yes, there were roller skates), then I managed a Ken's Pizza at only 16 years old. After some time at that, I transitioned to full-service in the foodservice world and now, I’m a dealer that helps find solutions for my customers. I can’t even remember my life without it to tell you the truth.

What is your ‘why’?

Why not? This is an incredible and resilient industry that is pretty large but so small at the same time. What’s kept me though? I’d have to say the relationships I’ve built and the sense of accomplishment. When you’re in the restaurant business, the motivation is your last shift. It’s the same on the dealer side! I want to help others accomplish their goals.

Did you ever imagine that you would be a leader in foodservice?

dater-familyAbsolutely! I’m not going to accept anything less. If you aren’t going to do it the best you can do, then don’t do it at all.

What would you say is your biggest accomplishment professionally?

Oh man, that has to be a tie! First, my retention of customers. I have the BEST people to work with day in and day out, some have been with me for over 25 years. Not too many salespeople can say that! So that is tied with being named FES Magazine’s DSR of the Year back in 2008. It is a huge accomplishment and respected throughout the country, I was honored to be recognized in this industry.

As a leader, how do you stay mindful of being inclusive or promote inclusivity?

Staying connected! Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. Be in touch with individuals, the industry, and what’s going on.

Who has been a role model to you?

I cannot just say one person. Every day, someone becomes a role model to me. Throughout the 40+ years in my career, I’ve come across millions of role models. Even the worst ones, taught me something that I will take to heart.

How can someone (let’s say a young female in the industry) differentiate herself?

Learn more than you need to. Learn about labor, marketing, sales, whatever you may not know. Learn about your customers and their pain points on a daily basis. Continually try to learn all about foodservice overall. Teach yourself more about the industry than just what you are selling or doing.

Zena and husbandWhat advice would you give yourself if you had to do it over again, starting in the workforce?

Get connected with different people and put your name out there. I represent Market Source, but I also represent MYSELF. Build those relationships and if you want to make your mark, you can’t sit behind a desk and take orders. Partner with your customers and learn about them as much as possible. Your customers are the most important.

What advice would you give the next generation of female leaders?

Make an impact on everybody that you come across. And find a mentor!! You can learn so much from just listening to another perspective or from someone who may have been in your shoes before.

How have you built confidence and resilience over the years?

Do the right thing and maintain your character. Try your absolute best to help how you can. As a salesperson, take a different approach to selling! Give more to your customers (and colleagues) than you expect to receive, and the rest will follow.

What would you be doing if it wasn’t this?

Maybe law enforcement. I always thought about being an undercover narcotics agent, but I hope I’m still here for at least ten more years!

I hope you are too, Zena. In talking through each question that I was asking her, I was in awe of her humility and wanting to give credit to others. Her strength and determination truly set her apart from the rest, she also gave a lot of credit to her husband and her team, her customers over and over. I think the only way to describe her would be a total bada**, so I’ll leave it at a force of nature instead.

here are some of ZENA'S TOP EQUIPMENT PICKS from chrane fs:


Mercer Culinary

Waring Commercial

American Metalcraft



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.


Submit a comment

You may also like

Females of Foodservice: Rita Denton
Females of Foodservice: Rita Denton
8 April, 2022

From working the counter at Dippin’ Dots to Einstein Bros. Bagel on the University of Southern Mississippi campus, to Lo...

Females of Foodservice: Stephanie Eaton
Females of Foodservice: Stephanie Eaton
11 July, 2022

Our go-to girl for all things multi-unit related, she always puts a smile on our faces, and provides the ideal partnersh...

Females of Foodservice: Kristen Ritchie
Females of Foodservice: Kristen Ritchie
4 August, 2022

In my completely biased opinion, this woman is as authentic as they come. Witty, relatable, a passionate learner. Kriste...