Keep Reaching for the Stars

In many ways it is ironic that in this issue we explore the future of foodservice design consultants. That's because in this issue we also remember design consultant Jim Webb who passed away far too early in late October. It was out of several conversations with Jim that we decided to make this article part of our December issue.

You see, Jim was someone who befriended me soon after I took over as the editor of FE&S. Our paths would cross at industry events like The NAFEM Show, the NRA Show and even at NACUFS or we would talk on the phone for lengthy periods. Our conversations would be wide ranging as we discussed everything from family life to the state of the foodservice industry to ways we could continue to evolve to become better people. Jim had the uncanny ability to make you feel special and if you left a conversation with him and did not have an extra spring in your step, well, that was on you.

Moreover, Jim was a visionary, one that relished the opportunity to question the status quo. For example, he never understood why the back of the house always had to be dark and lacking natural light. Jim always felt if you made the back of the house a bright and inviting space that people would want to work there and his designs were proof of this. In the front of the house, Jim always tried to understand the experience the operator wanted to create and worked with them to design a facility that would do that and more. With Jim, attention to detail was the name of the game. Jim freely shared this vision with everyone at Webb Design and it shows in the work they continue to do.

Long before Jim's health began to fail, he realized the need to plan for the future so the company would continue to flourish for many years to come. Jim realized that Webb Design had become more than about the man whose name was on the front door. He felt a profound sense of responsibility to provide the right types of challenges for the people who put their trust in him and his vision. So he set out to develop partnerships with other consulting firms, embraced technologies such as BIM, explored new ways to provide customer value and looked for the right people to add to his company. Oddly enough, when researching the article on the future of foodservice design consultants it came to light that these attributes are the ones this segment of the community will need to embrace to keep from becoming irrelevant.

Jim's legacy offers many lessons for all of us, including: don't be afraid to challenge the status quo, value takes multiple forms, apply the same attention to detail when designing both the front and back of the house, and start succession planning during good times so when you need to execute you are prepared.

I doubt I have ever met someone whose feet were so firmly planted on the ground and yet was able to keep himself and those around him reaching for the stars.

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