We like talking to our customers just as much as we like talking about remote work and unified communications. Recently, we “sat down” with designer Karen Weller at Premier Furniture to talk about the business, their most pressing communication challenges, and their relationship with TelNet.
The conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity.
TelNet: Can you tell us a little about your business?
Karen Weller: We are a family-owned restaurant manufacturer located in Westland, Michigan. We provide restaurants with all of their front of the house seating: tables, chairs, booths, settees, bar stools — anything that would have to do with dining. For 20+ years, Premier Furniture has manufactured quality products for restaurants who are remodeling, redecorating or starting a new build. We aren’t just limited to restaurants; some of our other projects include convention halls, luxury hotels and ski resorts.
Prospective clients can visit the showroom to get their hands on different products, sit in chairs, booths. Try things out. They can also see the manufacturing process. A customer can see their product from its beginnings until it’s out the door. And, because we’re a manufacturer, we’re able to keep prices down. Because we’re local, iIt’s also easy to switch things out when restaurants want to remodel.
What’s your role at Premier Furniture?
I’m our design consultant. When the sales team brings clients into the office, I work up drawings showing what that space could become. We offer free design drawings which is something most manufacturers don’t. We love working with chefs because they already have a great product. We want to enhance their space. We want to help them create a vision for their restaurant and make it a dining experience.
What challenges have you faced in recent years?
For us, 2019 was a bad year. We had a large stock of outdoor furniture and 2019 saw a ton of rain. Restaurants weren’t buying outdoor furniture and we didn’t move much product. When 2020 came around, we thought for sure we would be hit hard by the pandemic. We shut down when restaurants shut down, but what helped was the outdoor dining presence in Michigan.
The State of Michigan allowed restaurants to stay open if they had a large outdoor dining area. 2020 rolls around and everyone is looking for outdoor furniture. Most manufacturers are shut down and nothing is coming in from overseas. We had double the outdoor product. Standing at our door, a line of people seven, eight, nine deep, trying to get outdoor furniture. We were very thankful for that. Unfortunately, there were 800 Michigan restaurants that closed during the surge of the pandemic. We hope to help with the turnover and the new restaurants taking over those spaces.
In general, we’re hopeful for the restaurant industry in Michigan. Michiganders are tough. We will be out in gloves, hats and parkas if it means supporting local businesses. If there is something Michiganders can do, it’s the cold.
What changes has your company seen since the COVID-19 outbreak?
Communication has definitely changed. Like many businesses, we weren’t able to come into the office in early 2020. Our showroom team and warehouse team still work different schedules. This helps everyone keep their distance. We enjoy being in the office together and we look forward to bringing everyone back.
What would you like to see for Premier Furniture in the future?
Post-pandemic we want to continue supporting restaurants and see restaurants succeed.
One of the things we really missed the last two years were the trade shows. I’m really hopeful that in 2022 we will be able to get back into trade shows so that people can see our faces and our products. We’re a family and we look forward to seeing the same people each year and people look forward to seeing us.
You have been working with TelNet for about five years. Which of our products do you use in your day-to-day?
We have Polycom phones through TelNet, plus Toll Free, FXS and Cloud PBX. We are constantly making calls or receiving calls about orders, so we need reliable service. We’re glad we have that with these products.
How do you like working with TelNet?
Until 2017, we would go back and forth between telecom companies and then in 2017 we decided to make it official and switched to TelNet. Since then, we have been super happy with our service. The transition was easy, the installation was easy and the installers were helpful. Customer service is always on the mark. In the time we have worked with TelNet, I think I’ve maybe had three [support] tickets. We’re really happy with everything.
I’ve had an opportunity to get to know many of the employees at TelNet and it’s been a pleasure working with and getting to know them more. Being a family-owned business, we appreciate TelNet’s customer-centric values. We’re hopeful 2022 will be a successful year!
Want to learn more about Premier Furniture? You can check out their website here.
Interested in our communication services? Check out our solutions.