Serves the Commercial Small Fleet Market of 10 – 50 Vehicles

How Leasing Helped a Salad Dressing Maker Go National

October 2017, by - Also by this author

Ken's Foods headquarters in Marlborough, Mass.
Ken's Foods headquarters in Marlborough, Mass.

When Ken and Florence Hannah opened Ken’s Steak House in Framingham, Mass., in 1941, they couldn’t have imagined that it would be their salad dressing that would become a staple on dinner tables throughout the Northeast.

It wasn’t until the ’90s, however, that Ken’s Foods, the makers of Ken’s Salad Dressings, decided to go national when it built a plant in Georgia and then another in Nevada. What was a regional brand with six salespeople operating out of Massachusetts grew into sales offices across the country. And that’s when Jim Sutherby, chief financial officer, realized he needed to rethink his fleet strategy.

“It just became too difficult to run our own fleet, and that’s when I brought Motorlease into the picture,” Sutherby says.

Today, Ken’s Foods operates 44 fleet vehicles in some 20 states along the east and west coasts, Texas, and in the Midwest. Connecticut-based Motorlease Corp. has performed fleet leasing and management duties for Ken’s Foods since 1999.

Transactional Ease

Motorlease handles the licensing and registration for Ken’s fleet vehicles in every state. The vehicles are acquired through closed-end leases that come with a full maintenance program. They’re swapped out at a driver-requested location every four years or 60,000 miles.

“It couldn’t be more turnkey,” Sutherby says.

For Sutherby, the value of the closed-end lease is the predetermined lease payment and ease of transaction. “I’m sure Motorlease is worried about residual values, but I’m not,” he says. “We just turn the car in.”

Sutherby avoids charges for excessive mileage or wear and tear through good communication between Motorlease, his drivers, and himself. “Motorlease tracks the mileage, so they’re ahead of it before I am in terms of alerting the driver to order a new car,” he says.

And the drivers understand their duty of care. “I’ve told Motorlease that if someone isn’t getting their service done within a couple of weeks to let me know,” Sutherby says. “I’ll make sure that they get the proper service, but that rarely happens.”

Each time a vehicle is ordered, Motorlease runs an MVR (motor vehicle records) check on the driver. “We’ve turned up a DUI and another with four speeding tickets — those didn’t end well,” he says.
For lesser violations, remediation is part of the toolkit. Sutherby has worked with Motorlease to put a sales rep through a rigorous safe driving program. “The driver actually came back appreciative that he became a much safer driver,” he says.

Model Choice

Sutherby meets each fall with Motorlease to determine the models that will fit within the company’s fleet budget. The selector list includes a variety of sedans and crossovers from Toyota, Ford, and Nissan to Subaru, Hyundai, and GM.

Sutherby works with Motorlease to offer a “driver participation program,” in which sales reps can pay more out of pocket for an upgraded trim level. Sutherby says Toyota Highlander is the most popular model right now.

Ken’s hires many reps from larger consumer products companies, and they’re well familiar with company-provided vehicle schemes. “They say they’ve never seen this type of selection,” Sutherby says. “Their choices were limited to one or two sedans.”

Going beyond budget, Sutherby says Motorlease puts vehicles on the selector that suit the drivers in varying climates but also fit the client culture. “Motorlease understands that we don’t want our salespeople to pull up to certain food distributors in a Mercedes,” he says. “It doesn’t represent well.”

Wide vehicle selection and a smooth process go a long way in terms of productivity, especially in the competitive business of food service and retail grocery. Ken’s Foods sells to large accounts such as Safeway and Olive Garden on down to 10-store sub shops, and building relationships through face-to-face interaction is essential.

“Our sales reps are constantly out negotiating promotions and better shelf space with grocery stores,” Sutherby says, “and even bringing our culinary team to restaurants for menu ideation to help grow those businesses.”

After an almost 19-year relationship, Sutherby says the ordering process is so smooth that the yearly meeting with Motorlease takes fewer than 45 minutes. “They come out from Connecticut, but I feel bad, because we could do this over the phone,” he says. “But they insist on coming out.”

Twitter Facebook Google+


Please note that comments may be moderated. 
Leave this field empty:

Fleet Incentives

Determine the actual cost of owning and running a vehicle in your fleet. Compare vehicles by class and model.


Fleet Tracking And Telematics

Todd Ewing from Fleetmatics will answer your questions and challenges

View All


Fleet Management And Leasing

Merchants Experts will answer your questions and challenges

View All


Sponsored by

The addition of equipment on a vehicle not installed by the manufacturer.

Read more


Market Trends

Mike Antich
Don't Underutilize the Expertise of Your Suppliers

By Mike Antich
For many managers responsible for vehicle operations, fleet management is often one of several job responsibilities. These managers acknowledge that it is difficult to stay on top of changes in vehicle design, powertrains, onboard safety technology, telematics capabilities, and regulatory changes that impact fleet operations. Despite this recognition, a common mistake made by many of these managers is underutilizing the subject-matter expertise of current and/or prospective suppliers.

The Future of Fleet is Managing the Connected Vehicle Ecosystem

By Mike Antich

View All

Driving Notes

Paul Clinton
2018 Volvo XC60

By Paul Clinton
The 2018 XC60 arrives as the mid-size sibling of the XC90 in a stylish update that includes a bevy of new safety features, infotainment tech, and a well laid-out cabin.

2018 Mercedes Benz GLS450 4MATIC

By Chris Brown

View All

Nobody Asked Me, But...

Sherb Brown
Ready or Not, Electrification Is Coming

By Sherb Brown
We’re not where we need to be with battery technology and the whole herd seems to be betting that a magical new solution will appear in time to save us all. I sure hope they are right.

Fair and Balanced

By Sherb Brown

View All

Auto Focus

Chris Brown
Will Cars Become Transportation Appliances?

By Chris Brown
The cars are still the stars, but this year’s L.A. Auto Show revealed an auto industry at a crossroads.

U.S. Car Rental: Sanity in the Face of Disruption

By Chris Brown

View All


Up Next

More From The World's Largest Fleet Publisher