Just like Hollywood has its awards season, so too does the foodservice industry. From associations to buying groups, everyone likes to get in on the act of celebrating the success of those companies and individuals who go above and beyond in shaping the landscape of the industries they serve. But awards programs need to do more than simply recognize the biggest players in an industry.

To have any meaning attached to them, awards programs must not only celebrate the best of the best, they must also serve as learning opportunities by showcasing best practices and inspiring companies and individuals to continue to grow and evolve.

Such is the case with FE&S2018 Dealer of the Year: The Boelter Companies. Given the fact that the company’s roots extend back to the Great Depression and it has long been a leader within the dealer community, it is easy for someone to think they know all there is to know about Boelter. Think again.

First off, the industry will label Boelter as a foodservice equipment and supplies dealer, but that is too limiting. Value creator is a better way to describe Boelter. The company accomplishes this through a variety of means, including design services, product training, hosting community events and more.

That includes the formation of Boelter Blue, the company’s newest division that includes a loyalty app its operator customers can use to build their business. This represents an example of the next-level thinking that helps Boelter remain above the fray during a period of intense competition and consolidation in the dealer community.

Regardless of your position within the foodservice industry, Boelter’s success and evolution offers plenty of lessons and food for thought that can easily apply to your business.

The same applies to FE&S2018 Facility Design Project of the Year: Café 36 at Microsoft. By working collaboratively with its contract feeder, the employees who dine there regularly and other key stakeholders, the Microsoft project developed a highly flexible yet effective foodservice operation that delivers value on the customers’ terms. The project accomplishes this through a commitment to using locally sourced and seasonal ingredients and a variety of sustainability initiatives.

This project goes a step further than most business and industry operations, though, by incorporating technology to not only enhance speed of service but also project customer demand for specific menu items with an amazing degree of accuracy. This increases the productivity for both the Microsoft associates who dine there daily and the foodservice staff that serves them.

Though they approach the industry from different angles, both Boelter and Microsoft share two traits: an unwavering customer focus and a never-ending appetite for innovation. Boelter and Microsoft’s foodservice operations approach every customer interaction with the goal of adding value by helping them operate more effectively and efficiently. And that’s a lesson we can’t learn enough.