FSM Foodservice Leader of the Year 2013: John Snedden

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by Michael Birchenall

Foodservice Monthly
(FSM) celebrates our 12th year of publishing by honoring our 2013 Foodservice
Leader of the Year John Snedden, owner of Rocklands Barbeque and Grilling

About the Foodservice
Leader of the Year Award

In 2007, the late Marcia Harris, president and CEO of the
Restaurant Association of Maryland was honored as FSM’s first Foodservice
Leader of the Year. In establishing the criteria, Foodservice Monthly wanted to
make sure the award went to a person (or persons) who are currently actively
engaged in the industry in the high achievement mode … this is not a lifetime
achievement award, although these fast-track leaders have great accomplishments
that create long lists when measuring success.    

Our choice of the word leader came about from a 1980’s ad
that United Technology Corporation (UTC) ran as part of a series using succinct
messages of corporate and personal keys to success. One in particular motivated
me as a working food and beverage manager and I framed it for my office. The ad
headline declared, “Let’s Get Rid of Management.” It began, “People don’t want
to be managed. They want to be led. Whoever heard of a world manager? World
leader, yes.” Down the page the point was reiterated, “They lead, They don’t
manage.” The home run for me came with, “If you want to manage somebody, manage

John Snedden, Rocklands
Barbeque and Grilling Company

John Snedden first appeared in Foodservice Monthly in
December 2003 at a Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW)
reception when he was honored with a National Restaurant Association
“Restaurant Neighbor Award” for Rocklands contribution to the neighborhoods
they served. After I ran the picture in the magazine, I received a handwritten
note from John thanking me for my work reporting on the foodservice industry …
that is the kind of leader John Snedden is. When this reporter interviewed him
recently … ten years later he said, “Life is about relationships.” Some things
don’t change.

Today Rocklands has five locations in Washington and
Virginia with 120 year-round employees, 30 that join the company for the summer
season and another 150 that come aboard for the summer craziness as contract

Over the years, one observation about the management style
of John Snedden has been the involvement/inclusion of his Rocklands team (and
that includes his wife Kim) in the opportunities to explore and learn outside
the business i.e. food shows, trade shows, field trips and the like. I can
count on seeing the Rocklands team at RAMW events, Virginia Food & Beverage
Expo in Richmond, The Fancy Food Show in Washington and a trip on the
Chesapeake Bay with the Maryland seafood folks learning about oysters farming,
rockfish fishing and conservation. John told us, “This all helps to keep the
teams engaged with suppliers and helps with their professional development.” He
added, “This is about being better than what we were … for the future.” The
trips also add a time for bonding and building the work and personal
relationships within the company.

Talking about “being the best at what we do” leads John to
developing people as he tries to create a path of consistent excellence. “The
company is committed to tangibly improving the lives of the people who work for
us,” he added.

As noted in my Sauce on the Side column, John Snedden is
about Looking at life through the
windshield, not the rear-view mirror.

An Abridged Timeline

Following a path that revealed itself in the 70s while he
attended college … Rocklands evolved from John Snedden’s talent in barbequing a
whole pig for fraternities, families and local farms.

The story is best told in the form of his own timeline/milestones
… with a few interjections from this reporter.

1978: Rocklands
Original Barbeque Sauce created, named after farm where he lives.

1983: John moves
to Washington, DC, where he caters his first party. In the same year, he enters
the International Barbeque Competition — and wins first place for ribs.

1987: John begins
catering full-time from his home. He’s cooking for everything from weddings and
picnics to fund-raisers and company parties (and he still is!).

1990: Dream of
owning his own real barbeque restaurant comes true: Rocklands Barbeque and
Grilling Company opens doors at 2418 Wisconsin Ave NW in Washington DC, and
John hires his first 7 employees.

1991: At the end
of its first year of business, Rocklands served over 20,000 pounds of pork.

1993: John and
Kim marry.

1995: Their first
child Margaret Bishop is born.

1997: Sam is

1998: With two
locations and full-service catering and party planning, Rocklands staff numbers
75 employees serving over 100,000 pounds of pork annually.

2001: Eloise is

2004: Opening of
Rocklands in Alexandria as both restaurant and catering kitchen.

2006: Opening of
Rocklands in Rockville

2007: Opening of
Rocklands in Arlington

2010: Rocklands
thanks all its restaurant and catering customers for 20 amazing years

2013: John
Snedden, Rocklands Barbeque and Grilling Company, is named FSM’s Foodservice
Leader of the Year

About the Author

Michael Birchenall is Editor and Publisher of Foodservice Monthly, a regional trade publication covering the foodservice industry of the Mid-Atlantic (DE, DC, MD, VA). Foodservice Monthly has been recognized as the Restaurant Association of Maryland's Allied Industry Member of the Year and by the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington as the Joan Hisaoka Associate Member of the Year.

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