A Conversation With: Peter BallantineCEO, OnPoint
Peter Ballantine, 45, is CEO of OnPoint, a Harrisburg-based restaurant services corporation that grew from a company he purchased in 2014.
He started in the restaurant business at age 15 as a dishwasher, and has held almost every position in the industry.
Ballantine earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science from Hobart and William Smith College and an MBA from the University of New Hampshire.
He lives in Monaghan Township with his wife and two children, ages 10 and 14.
Q: How did you get into the restaurant business?
A: As a kid, restaurants were where you worked if you wanted to make money. I started as a McDonald’s franchisee. We had a service company, maybe they didn’t do something right, we would switch and at some point I got tired of that. I said, maybe we’ll start working with them more directly. I asked: Would you be interested in selling to me? I think we can do more. The company OnPoint is now — we’re sort of an older, more traditional service business; however, there are a lot of new innovations. We leverage some unique platforms from a technology perspective, we can track our equipment better … really develop a more complete relationship with a customer. There was room for innovation.
What is one key thing businesses need to do in this region to stay efficient and competitive?
I think the foundation is talent. From talent you get ideas, you’re nurturing the entrepreneurial spirit, allowing it to flourish. Whether it fails or succeeds doesn’t matter. I think keeping the talent here, keeping ideas local, and providing the networking, the financing, the resources they could use and the mentoring, they could really leverage to grow. I see this happening with the business incubator in Harrisburg. I think it takes a certain level of bravery to do that. It’s really neat that they’re taking that risk and doing that here. In a lot of ways this is a great place to start a business. The cost of living is low, it’s easy to navigate, very family friendly. I think it’s a great place to take risks as well.
What has been your experience with the workforce in Central Pennsylvania?
I think any employer now needs to come to terms with the idea you’re not going to get this perfect packaged person who is going to be able to hit the ground running at exactly the same speed as you want them to run. There’s got to be this level of commitment to training them. We look at a few things: whether they have the right presentation, whether they’re professional, the soft skills, where they are on the technical side. Are they curious, can they learn, are they hands-on, are they taking initiative? We have found just terrific talent here through the schools, people who have worked for other businesses similar to ours, people who have moved here.
What is the best meal you ever ate?
I get to travel a lot with my kids, at least once a year to far-flung places. About two years ago we went to Tanzania. We woke up really early and took a hot-air balloon ride across the Serengeti. We had a champagne brunch, out in the plains, and it was just beautiful. It was probably one of my finest moments, with all the people I love. It didn’t matter how the food tasted. It was excellent though.