New Sales and Profit Opportunities on the Menu for WPF Dealers at Palmer Hamilton 

Question: What do you call a company with brand that has been posting 30% annual growth year after year at a time when the rest of the industry has been grateful for just about anything in the high single digits?

If you’re a WorkPlace Furnishings member, you can be happy to call them Palmer Hamilton, one of the latest additions to the WPF portfolio of world-class furniture manufacturers.

Palmer Hamilton is hardly a newcomer to the furniture business. It got its start in 1946 as a maker of cafeteria tables and that side of the business remains strong. Indeed, Palmer Hamilton today is the dominant manufacturer of mobile cafeteria tables, with the broadest selection on the market and a significant share of the cafeteria table business, particularly in the K-12 and higher education markets.

But about six years ago, the company introduced a radical new approach to serving those markets through Palmer Hamilton Design (pHD), a new division with a new value proposition built around a total turnkey approach to cafeteria construction—from the initial layout and design all the way through to final installation.

Timing on the new division could not have been better, says Palmer Hamilton VP of Sales and Marketing Jeff Schreiner.

“There’s been a real revolution in how food service managers in the education market view their cafeterias,” he points out. “In the K-12 segment, we’ve seen a broad effort to transform the cafeteria space from what used to be the last place any kid wanted to be into a contemporary dining facility that’s almost a destination location for them.”

There are several factors behind the current trend, Schreiner explains. A more attractive environment means kids eat better and when kids eat better, they also learn better.

A more attractive environment also helps take away the stigma that has traditionally been associated with school cafeterias as a place where you ate because you couldn’t afford anything else. Make the cafeteria a place where everybody wants to be and that stigma disappears.

The most important reason, though, is financial. “All school systems today are suffering budget pressures and they don’t have too many ways to increase revenue,” Schreiner points out. “But offer students an attractive dining experience and they will spend more.”


Case in point: 
A school district in South Carolina that worked with Hamilton Palmer on its cafeterias and ended up returning over $600,000 in increased revenues to the district’s general education fund as a result.


Numbers like that make a compelling case for change by any measure and explain to a large extent why the basic pHD value proposition has met with such an enthusiastic response, not only in the K-12 market but also in higher education and healthcare.

“The market dynamics may be a little different—in higher education, for example, it’s all about creating flexible, multi-purpose spaces and building a sense of connectivity between the students and the institution—but the basic value concept is very similar, Schreiner explains. “Our turnkey approach makes it easy for the school or hospital administrators and we’re usually able to give them a transformed dining facility—with a totally unique look and feel—in about ten weeks from initial design concept to installation.”

And the WPF dealer’s role in all this?
“Most office furniture dealers have some kind of presence in the education and healthcare markets but historically they have done very little on the dining side of those markets,” Schreiner points out. “With Palmer Hamilton Design, they now have a platform they can use to penetrate that market in a way that is very cost-effective for them.”

Schreiner has a simple message for WPF dealers: “Find us a project, get us an appointment and our sales reps and food service people will go in with you and help close the sale.” 

Schreiner looks at the WPF-Palmer Hamilton connection and sees synergies on multiple fronts. “Palmer Hamilton is the dominant player in dining environments for higher ed, healthcare and K-12 but those dining area markets are niches that the major contract manufacturers don’t serve,” he points out. “What we offer and how we go to market are completely different from the WPF dealer’s primary alignment so there’s very little potential for conflict.”

Instead, he maintains, there’s significant potential for profit. “Very rarely do we get a dining project that’s less than $100,000 and because the project typically involves a conceptual sale rather than just a product sale alone, it’s not unrealistic to expect margins in the 20-30% range.”

Clearly, pHD has been a hugely successful story for Palmer Hamilton over the past six years. But the company is hardly resting on its laurels. Also brand new is its Nomad Flexible Furniture line, an offering which encompasses a broad range of tables and seating that are mobile, lightweight, stackable and storable—qualities that are tailor made for today’s multi-purpose, ad hoc spaces that have become increasingly important in just about every market.

Nomad, Schreiner reports, is barely a year old but it too is already generating some impressive sales growth and promises to become an important new addition to the Palmer Hamilton brand stable.

“Palmer Hamilton is a growth company,” says Schreiner. “We believe in growth, we believe in new products and we believe in niche markets where we can be the dominant player. And we also believe Palmer Hamilton can bring significant new opportunities to WPF dealers without requiring any major new investments in people or infrastructure on their part.”

Like to find out more? Contact Schreiner today (PH: 262-723-8200, ext. 270; Email:

Not a member of WPF? We'd like to hear from you...

If you own or run a dealership, you owe it to yourself and your company to find out how membership in WorkPlace Furnishings, Inc (WPF) can benefit your bottom line. Contact Greg Nemchick: phone: 724-771-1452; email:

WorkPlace Furnishings


designed and powered by Associates P&D, Inc. Collierville TN