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A busy fall full of inspiring conferences and gatherings.
The fall months have been a busy time for us here at FE&S. A couple of weeks ago I was among the 100 or so foodservice professionals that attended the FCSI Super Regional here in Chicago. And prior to that, I had the opportunity to attend the CFESA Fall Conference in Scottsdale, Ariz. And our travels for the year are far from over. Still on the itinerary are trips to New York for IHMRS and Las Vegas for a NAFED meeting.
My reason for bringing this up is not to boast about the frequent flier miles I am racking up these days because undoubtedly the majority of you reading this spend exponentially more time on the road than I do. But I am excited about much of what I am seeing and hearing while on the road these days.
For example, while attending the CFESA and FCSI events I was encouraged by the fact that so many individual members of these organizations are making an investment not only in themselves but their businesses. People are coming to the seminars with open minds and taking advantage of the open dialogue that each of the presenters is helping to create.
What makes some of these presentations interesting is that they are not focusing so much on foodservice trends and developments. Rather, these sessions are helping the foodservice professionals in the room learn how to become better business people and that is something that will benefit the entire industry.
So many foodservice professionals have achieved their success by following their passion and expertise. In some instances, that passion focuses on the center-of-the plate product the consumer enjoys. In other cases a person pursues their passion for design and engineering or even their ability to fix things into a wonderful career. While all wonderfully important aspects of the industry, the fact remains that these abilities do not necessarily translate into sound business practices. Basic business functions such as learning how to structure fees, manage inventory or even handle simple marketing tasks can fall out of the realm of expertise or comfort for many foodservice professionals. As a result, these aspects of the business often go neglected if management is not smart enough or unable to hire someone to handle them.
While not terribly alluring in many cases, one can't argue how important running the business can be to an organization's long-term success. Doing so helps shape the customer experience by creating a business infrastructure and it allows these foodservice professionals to pursue their passions and, presumably, get paid for it. And in an industry of mostly small businesses, the relevance of this can't be overstated.
To many outsiders, the foodservice industry consists of the large chains and equipment suppliers. But to those of you who have worked in this industry for years — including those that followed your parents or other family members into the business — you know of the small business entrepreneurial spirit that continues to define all segments of the foodservice industry.
That's why I remain encouraged by the participation levels at these events. If you are looking for me to tell you whether the presentations were of value, stop. It is not my place to say that. What I can say, though, is that I saw a wonderful level of engagement at both events, particularly among the many small business owners in the room. People were taking notes, asking questions and discussing with detail what they learned and what they hoped to apply in their businesses. And to me that seems like a worthwhile investment of time.
Over the course of the next few posts, I plan to share with you some additional thoughts and information gathered at these events as there was lots to cover.