Brands / Tips & Tricks

Merchandise Connection International Corporation’s CEO Talks Vision, Brands, and Products

A relative newcomer to the hositality scene in America – Merchandise Connection Internation Corporation – has opened a lot of industry eyes in an incredibly short period of time. With great products at great prices ….and, even better service…. MCIC has made big waves in the glassware, flatware, and dinnerware segments on America’s restaurant and hotel tabletops. TabletopJournal recently at with MCIC’s CEO Kian Forouzesh to discuss the interesting company that he and his team are building. Here’s what he had to say…..What is the current vision you have for MCIC?
Although we are beyond the start up phase, we still like to call ourselves a startup because we are a work in progress. The current vision is that we would like to cover all the tabletop aspects – dinnerware, flatware, glassware – at a variety of price and quality levels. We started as a medium price/quality dinnerware company, then added flatware, glassware to fit that segment. Then, as our customers demanded, we grew into other levels – first in the higher end products, and then eventually into more basic, banqueting and catering level products – in those same categories. So, our vision is to be a complete source of tabletop across a variety of price and quality levels as our customers dictate. We want to be a complete tabletop supplier able to fit into our customer’s budgets for all their foodservice outlets from employee dining and cafeteria on up to high-end, white tablecloth restaurants.

Your product range is already wide ranging in terms of quality and categories….are there any holes you’d like to fill in the MCIC product offering?
Yes. We have a fantastic program of dinnerware at lower and mid levels with products that are correct with their quality and also offer great value. But, we would like to add a dinnerware at the very top of the market. Our accessory line is excellent, but at the very high end tip of the dinnerware market, we would definitely like to expand.However, keep in mind that every single product line we have, we truly believe in. We do not have products simply to show them. We must believe in the product and its place in the market, before we decide to get behind it. So, sometimes it takes a while to find the right “fit”.What is the criteria you look for when you are considering a new brand or product?
First, we consider the quality and how it fits with where it is priced. It has to be the right value. There is value at all quality levels and, hopefully our products are seen by our customers as good value whether they are buying our low-mid tier products or our upper end lines.Secondly, when we consider a new product we think about how will it fit into our existing product range? It must help us round out our tabletop offering and not simply be a duplicate of something we already have. Ideally, it will be complementary to our current products.

Are there any other brands/products or categories that you will be adding to the existing portfolio?
Of course. We are a company that always is looking to grow. As we speak we are in negotiation with a European manufacturer for tabletop accessory pieces that we feel the chefs will love. We hope to have these products available for our customers this Fall. There are other categories that we are discussing, but those are a bit further out so, I am hesitant to speak about them now. But, we definitely are looking to grow.

What should the marketplace know about the Studio William flatware line that differentiates it from others in the hospitality market?
Studio William products are not just another flatware line, but rather they are designed as pieces of art, that add to the culinary experience. William Welch – owner and head designer of Studio William – has this in mind when designing each piece. For instance, none of the Studio William pieces are over-sized in order that the guest can enjoy the dining experience at his or her own pace so that the food can be truly tasted, rather than just feeding the stomach. The designs are not traditional – I would not call it “modern” but the Studio William designs are really 21st century in their style. The forks fit much more nicely in the mouth, are balanced better and therefore, easier to pick up….overall it’s just a different dining experience. There’s nothing I would want to compare to Studio William. Most product are designed by a designer, then manufactured by a manufacturer, then finally, marketed by someone else. So, the process is not connected. Studio William designs, tests, manufactures, and markets … so they are involved in every aspect it all from beginning to end to insure that this product is being brought to market the right way. Burg Al Arab in Dubai is a very happy Studio William customer and Studio William is a preferred vendor for Hilton properties, as well.
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Studio William – MCIC’s flatware company – differentiates the dining experience by designing sensory eating utensils at a variety of price/quality levels, with design at the forefront.
MCIC has been involved in the foodservice and hospitality markets for approximately four years. Often, it takes time to gain traction as a supplier that operators have trust in, but you have had exceptional success early on. Tell us about some of those successes.
Fortunately, we have had a number of very good successes. For instance, with the Lucaris glassware line we have been able to show decision makers, in chain hotels in particular, its strength and durability, the clarity, and how well Lucaris showcases their wine offerings. Lucaris has often been used in wine tastings around the world and won awards for its ability to enhance the taste of the wine. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that we have Lucaris as the preferred glassware for the St. Regis brand at Starwood Hotels, for instance. Customers won’t choose Lucaris because wins awards or it is well known in the Pacific Rim, they choose it because it is a great glass, an excellent value, and will work well for them operationally.
St Regis Bal Harbour in Florida, truly a Starwood flagship property is using Lucaris throughout the entire property. So, we feel very good about Lucaris, along with our other glassware and where it will go in the marketplace. We also are fortunate enough to count among our customers Rosewood’s Crescent Court in Dallas and a number of other prominent hotel properties throughout North America.Studio William flatware is set to welcome guests at the about to openGrace restaurant in Chicago, with Grant Achatz disciple, Michelin starred Chef Curtis Duffy.MCIC has glassware, flatware, and dinnerware. Are there any other categories on the horizon that you are looking to bring to the market?

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Lucaris BLISS stemware brings a great cost-value and practicality proposition that America’s winelovers seem to be embracing.
I had mentioned earlier that we will soon announce something in the serving accessories area, but we are a young company and we are always looking for cool, new complementary products.When people see the exciting products such as Lucaris, Studio William, and DKE dinnerware that MCIC is bringing to the marketplace, what should they do to get more information or to purchase them?
The best way to contact us directly is through our Website: http://www.merchandiseconn.com. That way, we can respond quickly with the required information. Also, we address our customers’ needs by either mapping them to one of our sales representative in their geographical location, or if a representative is not present in that specific location, we will support them directly though our own company.Ok, final question. We know that you, and the entire team at MCIC, have been working very hard to introduce your product lines to the North American hospitality market. But, it seems that in addition to great tabletop, hospitality people also love great music. What’s on the Kian Forouzesh iPod?
I listen to everything, depending upon my mood, from classical to hard rock. Usually, it’s classical music when I am working with papers, reading, or writing emails. When I’m driving its hard rock, heavy metal…Korn is my favorite….crazy stuff. When I’m at home, I put on lounge music, grab a glass of wine, and try to relax. So, everything has its place.

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