A chef turned designer, Orlando Rivera, founder and owner of International Restaurant & Bakery Equipment, Inc., finally hangs up his apron to embrace retirement. For over 40 years, Rivera has enhanced and created countless kitchens where people leave feeling full and connected, aspects he credits in fueling “the rush” as he describes his experiences.
His equipment company didn’t just pop out of nowhere, though. Rivera’s world-class kitchen design skills were made from scratch.
“I started cooking as a child, at thirteen years old,” he reminisces. “There’s a big rush I get out of people enjoying the food.”
At his first restaurant, The Lazy Donkey in Carrollton, Georgia, which he ran from 1981 to 2007, Rivera featured signature Hispanic recipes locals can still enjoy today on Bankhead Highway. And although he loved the food-service atmosphere, he began experiencing burnout, a feeling he worried would drive him away from the community he loved.
Hilariously, it was one of his key pet peeves in the kitchen that steadied his weakening connection to his career: chafing dishes. Rivera expressed that the standard, stainless steel chafers drove him crazy.
“I was really frustrated with the way they were made, so I created a wrought iron chafing stand,” he posited. “I developed a whole line and then started marketing them. With that, we were selling them internationally. That’s what got it all started!”
Rivera continued to evade burnout by investing his creative energy in other products and eventually kitchen servicing. From cooking to catering to cutlery, there seemed to be no bounds to what he could do next. He purchased the storefront in the curve of South Street right off Carrollton’s Adamson Square and later moved to his most recent location in 2019 on Lovvorn Road next to Quest Comics.
Despite heavy losses in the 2008 recession, International Kitchen & Bakery Supply has done nothing but bounce back, diversifying their products and services along the way. Rivera has employed up to twenty people at any given point during his career, and each person contributes in his or her own special way. He has specialized service technicians who can replace and repair anything from hoods to walk-in refrigerators, a support team that answer the phones and connect customers to the Supply’s solutions, and parts specialists who keep the store well-stocked.
Even during the initial business closures the pandemic brought, Rivera’s team was able to take full advantage of empty kitchens and dining rooms in 2020. Because they were deemed essential businesses during the lockdowns, many restaurants received government grants, opening up massive opportunities for Rivera and his team to do the more expansive remodels many local restaurants desperately needed.
And throughout all of it, Rivera cherishes the trust his loyal customers have granted him all these years. As a continuing ‘thank you’ to them, he doesn’t plan to abandon them without resources.
“We won’t leave them [our customers] high and dry!” he exclaims. “My grandson is going to take over the refrigeration side of the business, and I have a head tech who is going to start his own business on all hot equipment.”
He chuckles at the fact his grandson told him when he was very young that he’d never join the kitchen supply business.
“But Grandpa was right!” he laughs.
Rivera plans to stay busy during retirement with his real estate ventures and world travel. He’s leasing his storefront properties to others in the next few months. And although he’s passed his legacy to others, his creative innovations are still the heartbeat of many local and international restaurants.