In the Hot Seat: 7 Questions with President Geoff Miller

We sat down with Geoff Miller, president of Grand Rapids Chair Company, to find out what makes this company so great! 

1. What differentiates your company from others?

We manufacture, assemble, and finish our products in our Michigan factory. Because we are domestic, we ensure our products are high-quality, durable, and made to last and have shorter lead times.

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2. Where does your company go for new product inspiration?

It’s a combination of user based design studies, input from chain designers, research gathered from trips to Europe, and other design centers of influence.

3. What do you see on the horizon for 2017? 

From the design perspective, we’re seeing cookie-cutter design fall by the wayside. Many restaurants—even large chain restaurants—are opting for designs that boast distinct yet classic features that reflect their local surroundings. Restaurants want to differentiate, and furniture design helps them achieve that.

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4. How might these trends influence your future product line?

We strive to find a balance between the trends and the classics. So, as cookie-cutter design drops in demand, our product lines will reflect the contrary: updated and reimagined classics with customization options.

5. How are you working with designers or restaurant concepts to customize a unique solution?

First and foremost, we listen. We start a dialogue around user needs, approaching it with two different perspectives. The first is to make a completely custom product, straight from designer’s sketchbook.  We did this with Wendy’s and were successful in addressing their needs in terms of new brand standards and durability.

The second is to work alongside designers to make small adjustments to one of our standard products in order to provide a solution for their space. It’s rewarding to see our team providing solutions and exceeding customer expectations.

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6. How are you able to serve the larger scale requirements associated with a chain redesign rollout or a new concept?

This answer is simple: our operational strategy. Most firms today talk about operational excellence but few really live it. Our holistic view of the entire value chain means we can balance cost, service requirements, and quality to meet the needs of the customer—in other words, it’s not a “one size fits all approach.” We do this better than our competitors in the space.

7. What role is design playing in restaurants today?

Since we are a visual culture, design plays an even larger role than before. Because the QSR and fast-casual markets are so competitive, in order to differentiate, the design needs to strengthen the overall experience. Guests now—even at a QSR—have higher expectations for their dining experience, and furniture is a cost-effective and easy way to convey a new or improved brand.

*This Q&A was originally published in RD+D Magazine in 2016.