SHFM Insight

Neil Reyer
Principal | Food Flair

As a past president and founding member, will you provide us with an overview of the association’s history?
When I look back at the founding and the history of our organization I am reminded of how different and unique our association really is.    If there was ever an organization that is the personification of the word dynamic it is the Society for Hospitality and Foodservice Management.   It’s an incredible word with multiple definitions all of which were genetically present in our founding DNA in 1979.  Who can deny or dispute the fact that our association is “characterized by energy, action; vigor, much activity, progress, especially in bringing about change”.  A dynamic organization is one that is ambitious, full of new ideas and in need to have its content refreshed periodically.  You don’t have to be a long time member to recognize that this is us!  And you don’t have to scratch your head to wonder why our organization is the way it is.  It couldn’t be helped--- it was built, depended on, and driven by the most dynamic ever-changing segment of our universe---corporate America!  It changed, we changed and that will never change.

The opposite of dynamic is “static” which reflects an organization that shows little or no change, movement, development or vitality.  Satic organizations, from the day they are founded, serve the needs of an unchanging membership market.  And while “static” organizations are blessed with stability, our Society, driven by the fluid nature of corporate America, has always been in a state of flux, changing, morphing and evolving into an organization that will forever continue to be a welcome haven to an ever-changing membership base.     

What remains abundantly clear is the dependency and connection that SHFM has with corporate America and its vicissitudes.   The challenge for the SHFM is (1) trying to anticipate what changes are happening in corporate America and to what extent, if any, these changes will affect our target member market, and (2) how does the SHFM actually identify these future members.   In the beginning this was easy, we started as the SFM, dedicated to the simple notion of feeding employees and, because of this singular purpose, it was not difficult to identify and grow our membership.  This clarity was quickly blurred as corporate America altered the work environment, changing job descriptions, titles and responsibilities which generally broadened and expanded incumbents beyond their food centric jobs.

What do you see in store for the future of the Society and the industry?
As has been the case for 38 years, the makeup of our membership will continue to change as our world of providing an adjunct corporate support service changes.  This will never stop.  And while “hospitality and foodservice” remain in our association name, it may, at some point, no longer represent the entirety of our actual membership base.   While some might see this as a harbinger of a final change---consolidation; I don’t believe this to be inevitable. Organizational viability is dependent upon anticipating and managing change--the SHFM is a proven master of this discipline.  Besides, metaphorically speaking, our members have grown accustomed to going by taxi…no way are they going to transfer to a bus.