A Century of the OSI Group

OSI Group, one of the world’s largest food providers, celebrates 100 years of business this year. This company has a history that begins in the city of Chicago, an industrial center and point of entry for immigrants, many of whom who wished to go west to establish farms. One member of Chicago’s large German community, Otto Kolschowsky, opened a butcher shop west of Chicago in Oak Park in 1909. By 1928 Kolschowsky had expanded his growing business, renamed Otto & Sons, farther west into a wholesale operation in Maywood. After World War II the economy prospered, and new businesses and new ideas emerged. One new concept was that of restaurant franchising. In 1955 in the Chicago suburb of Des Plaines, Ray Kroc opened the first McDonald’s restaurant.

Kroc was a franchise agent for Californians Richard and Maurice McDonald, brothers who owned a family restaurant begun in 1940. The McDonald’s restaurant in Des Plaines launched the expansion of the family’s business into a franchising company, and under the management of Arthur and Harry Kolschowsky, Otto & Sons became the franchise’s first supplier of fresh ground beef. With this connection to the McDonalds’ franchise, Otto & Sons became a two-track company as a supplier to local businesses in the Chicago area, and as the Midwest provider to a great corporation. In time, the Kolschowsky brothers’ company expanded. Sheldon Lavin, who had served as an investment consultant, was invited into the company as a partner in 1975.

Under the leadership of Lavin, the once local butcher shop grew from a chain of restaurants to a global food conglomerate, and it became the OSI Group as it is known today. Since then, Lavin’s vision has been responsible for directing the OSI Group toward new business strategies and growth in technology. Also, the OSI Group has become an environmentally friendly producer of food. Lavin’s impressive accomplishments have brought both him and the OSI Group praiseworthy recognition. Such prestigious awards as the Global Visionary Award, the British Safety Council’s Globe of Honour, and the North American Meat Institute’s Environmental Award have been awarded to OSI and Lavin individually.

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