Which hospitality and foodservice services do you oversee and how does SHFM help you balance these responsibilities?
I oversee Foodservice, Café Preventive Maintenance, Vending, Fitness Centers and Shuttles. SHFM has helped me tremendously when I am benchmarking performance, looking for new ideas and as a testing ground to bounce those ideas off of experts in the field. SHFM has kept me grounded in the industry that I love. Building relationships with SHFM members has not only been beneficial in my professional life but also in my personal. The access to professional leaders in our industry and the diverse nature of their businesses has helped to keep me on the cutting edge.
What do you see as the most important trend in the industry?
There is never a lack of trends to keep our fingers on the pulse of. Decade after decade, we have the same trends; labor shortages, rising wages, equipment breakthroughs, changing technology, latest food trends and environmental concerns to name a few. These trends pretty much run in cycles. However, I believe there is an area of concern that affects all of us and requires us to apply more attention and resources. The area of concern is assuring a safe and renewable food supply. Safety for the consumer is first and of the utmost importance. Without safety, the latest food trends, labor shortage, rising wages and technology mean nothing. We are in an age where we can actually track the food and water resources the planet has and can produce. We will at some point be unable to keep up with the demand. We are already witnessing that being played out with reduced farmland and water sources. What are some of the old and new causes of reduced food production? Climate change and crops destroyed by pests have always been a battle; add to that some new threats to our food supply such as terrorist activity, unsafe farming, shipping and end use practices to name a few. All these factors have created additional burdens on our food supply. Lastly, our food chains are much more interconnected than in years past. If there is an unsafe product introduced into the food chain, it can affect many people over multiple continents whereas before when we were not so interconnected by commerce. A bad food source would be geographically small. This again raises the importance of keeping the food supply safe. The scientific community has attempted to solve the production and safety issues by adding fertilizers, steroids and GMOs in order to obtain a higher yield to whatever was being produced (farm animals, fish and produce). At first, the enhancement of the production process seemed to be a good idea because the product could be grown faster larger and stronger with more nutrients. Current research has proven that many of these chemicals and practices are unsafe. As you know this has led to the organic movement, which proves to produce a much lower yield in food production. Although this news all seems doom and gloom, it creates opportunities for companies with forward thinking and the entrepreneurial spirit to solve these issues. The stakes are high and the money will follow those who have the best solutions. Solving these issues may not be the most glamorous and won’t win anyone Restaurateur of the Year but it can be the most meaningful, impactful contribution we can make to the food service/ hospitality industry that we are vested in. Twenty years ago who would have ever thought we would be selling a 12 oz bag of kale chips for $3.49?
How do you keep your customers happy?
By listening, people want to be heard. Be accessible and approachable for your customers and take the time to listen to them. Many times what they are telling us really has nothing to do with what they are asking about but rather there is a deeper meaning. Anticipate the customer’s needs, God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason.
How have you seen the association grow and change since you joined?
I have been a member for six years. In this short time, I have witnessed a great deal of change for the better. Although there have been many, some of the more impactful ones are listed below.
- The increased focus on giving to charities and back to the local communities that SHFM is involved with. One of the ways SHFM has increased charitable contributions is by tying SHFM Local and National events to a specific charity. A second way has been the Hunger Games event at our National Conference.
- There has been a notable push by many individual SHFM members to increase membership by owning the process themselves and communicating by word of mouth to peers within our industry rather than just relying on the Membership Committee.
- A specific plan has been put in place, which targets students in our industry through communication and reduced fees.
- The changing role of the SHFM member from primarily handling foodservice to adding other categories and services unrelated to food.
- Recognizing a new trend whereby some individual companies have outsourced the internal position of the Client Liaison to a third party vendor.
- The most impactful change was redefining SFM to include the hospitality sector of our industry to become SHFM. This has expanded membership and has added to the depth and future growth of the organization.
Unlike the U.S. political arena, which has up and down progress with each change of party and agendas. SHFM Presidents have honestly built on the backs of their predecessors to continually improve the organization for its members. I am proud to be a member.
Which SHFM event has been your favorite to attend?
National Conference is my favorite event. There is so much to do, they are loaded with educational opportunities to participate in, the food is out of this world and it is great to blow off some steam with colleagues. My favorite events to attend are local in nature such as educational and social events. Locally, on our own turf is where we spend most of our time professionally and personally. It makes sense to be involved on the local scene as the stronger the local chapter is the stronger and more diverse national will be.