SHFM Insight
Debi Benedetti, Principal
Beyond the Possible

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing corporate foodservice and workplace hospitality in today’s business climate?

The biggest challenge facing corporate foodservice is keeping the purpose of the foodservice relevant and aligned to the client’s goal. One of Michelle Obama’s greatest legacies will be emphasizing the responsibility we all have to educate about and provide food that is good for people. Whether it is clean, organic, environmentally sustainable or maximizes wellness for the individual. Clients need to develop a food philosophy, and what that means to what is offered for employees. This can be managed and encouraged by the operator. Some issues to be addressed are delivery, home meal replacement, carbon footprint, employee retention, employee wellness and employee benefits.   
In what ways has the association grown/stayed consistent since your Presidency?

I was president twenty years ago (no way!). The association has expanded to be more inclusive of facility managers as pure foodservice liaisons are dwindling. As an organization, it continues to focus on its core values of networking and education. At the end of the day, it is a forum to share and exchange. It continues to build a community of professionals focused on food service at the work place.
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?

What an interesting question. It was a packed year. We opened up membership beyond the corporate foodservice realm with the “new-house” initiative begun by Dick Kresky. We re-branded the focus including an updated logo to include “the plate,” we continued to expand our global influence with our alliance with the European Catering association, we continued to expand our student program to attract alliances with hotel schools to attract future employees to our segment and looked at building alliances with other associations to expand our resources. It was a full, productive and fun year! 
If I would have done one thing differently, it would have been to concentrate on the non-member/non-user. The universe of corporate foodservice was so much larger then as it is now. I worry about innovative and fresh thinking. How could I have encouraged more of that?
How has your professional role changed since your 1996-1997 year of Presidency?

In 2000, I left contract management and did some consulting while exploring my next chapter. I was encouraged to look at executive coaching, became certified in 2004 and have never looked back. I have been blessed to work with a variety of leaders, owners and entrepreneurs in the hospitality industry. My focus is on supporting others success through helping them develop their leadership and communication skills. It is rewarding, challenging and strategic. The excitement of teaching and guiding others is as good as ever. “When you teach, you must also learn!”
What is your most fond memory from that year?

Watching the students from University of Houston compete in the ECA in France. I was so proud to be a part of investing in the future of their lives and our industry.
I also loved our conference in Seattle. So many incredible people were honored, friendships revisited and relationships begun. Too many are gone, but never forgotten—their legacy lives on through networking and education.