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Remembering John C. Cini

Foodservice consulting icon John C. Cini, FFCSI, one of the founders of the firm, passed away peacefully at home surrounded by his family on Wednesday July 4th, 2018. He is survived by his wife, three children and their families.

John enjoyed an active, successful career in the foodservice and hospitality industry and was highly respected in the specialized field of foodservice design consulting as a pioneer and driving force that paved the way for many others. He began his career at Stouffer’s Restaurant and Prexy’s in New York City, gaining solid operations experience. In 1963, he was recruited by Marriott Corporation to direct its Food Facilities Design Division in Maryland. Five years later in 1968, he struck out on his own and was joined by fellow Cornell alumni, to start his own consulting firm, now known as Cini-Little International, Inc.  “To say it quite simply, John had the greatest impact on my professional life of any single individual, and an equally important influence on my life in general as one of a handful of those who have been a friend for over five decades.” says Bill Eaton, Chairman of the Board. John retired from the day to day business in June 2002, after leading his firm for 34 years as Chairman and CEO. John remained active on the board until 2016.

“I am privileged and thankful for the opportunity to work closely with John for almost four decades,” shares Ron Kooser. “As a colleague, business partner, and most of all, a friend. He had a zest for all things in his professional and personal lives, and enriched those who were fortunate enough to cross his path. Our industry has lost a bright light, and we will miss him.”

John started his firm in an era when foodservice within commercial facilities was regarded as a necessity with little emphasis placed on the important role food and dining plays within our everyday lives. John innately understood the importance of planning and designing a strong, efficient and dynamic foodservice operation to connect the community of people they served. Working with prominent architects and clients, his firm designed commercial kitchens for corporations, hospitals, universities, museums, and sports complexes as well as for hotels and famous restaurateurs. John was a master at selecting the best talent and expertise to design and produce a great project.  Thinking outside the box, John and his firm designed many of the “firsts” in the industry including the first food halls and scatter-style serveries.  John was responsible for designing kitchens and support facilities in a number of landmark projects including the iconic twin towers at the World Trade Center, Colonial Williamsburg, The Greenbrier, IBM, and the National Gallery of Art.

Diane Dowling, CFO/CEO, shares “As his daughter, I had the privilege of seeing how much my dad loved his profession and the foodservice industry in general. He had an innate curiosity and ability to reason through difficult problems that led him to be so successful during his career. It was my honor to work by his side for many years and now to lead the company he built.”

John was a founding member of FCSI, Foodservice Consultants Society International, and was honored as a member of the “FCSI Council of Fellows” in 1986, for his extraordinary contributions to the foodservice and hospitality industry.  Dick Eisenbarth, Vice President of Strategic Relations and Board Member of Cini-Little, reflected, upon hearing the news of John’s passing, “He believed in preparing young people for careers in the foodservice industry and supported the growth and education of the foodservice consulting profession through this Society.”

John’s interests and involvement extended beyond Cini-Little as well. He served on a number of board and advisory committees including University of Delaware’s Hotel, Restaurant & Institutional Management School’s Advisory Council during the creation and early years of the program. John, a Cornell Hotel School Alumnus, was an active member of the Cornell Hotel Society. As an opera enthusiast and music lover, he held a long-term position on the Board of Visitors for the School of Music at the University of Maryland. He was a long-time supporter of the arts.

John made a huge impact on our industry and personally touched many, many people, inside and outside of the firm.  Kathleen Held, CMO of Cini-Little, remembered John fondly, “He always asked profound questions and his mind was razor sharp. He had the ability to articulate his thoughts in a way that made everyone stop and want to listen. You are just a better person for having been around and mentored by someone like John Cini.”

We mourn the loss of a warm and wonderful man. John will be deeply missed and always remembered. The family will receive visitors at Pumphrey Funeral Home, 300 W Montgomery Ave, Rockville, Maryland, on Monday, July 9, 2018, from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, July 10, 2018, at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church, 9200 Kentsdale Dr, Potomac, MD. Burial will follow at Gate of Heaven Cemetery, 13801 Georgia Ave, Silver Spring, MD.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.


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