Topic: How Innovation Can Be a Competitive Advantage
While more than 1,000 stock traders tended to business on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on April 14th, Society for Foodservice Management members and guests were in attendance — seven floors above — for the association's 2011 Critical Issues Conference (CIC).
Most came to take stock of the economic trends having an impact on their foodservice operations as well as to trade applicable insider tips in regard to “How Innovation Can Be A Competitive Advantage.”
CIC chairman Margaret Stefanek, senior associate at Innovative Hospitality Solutions, Inc., had assembled an experienced cross-sector operator panel that drew from not only B&I but the healthcare and college segments as well.
Warren Solochek, v.p. client development for the NPD Group/Foodservice consumer research company, provided a solid backgrounder on the state of the industry with statistics from the CREST (Consumer Reported Eating Share Trends) study.
Regenia Phillips, director of residential dining services at Yale University, provided a behind-the-scenes look at her campus program where approximately 4,700 students are served in 12 residential dining facilities.
One initiative she discussed was Rethinking the Salad Bar, spearheaded at Yale by acclaimed chef Joyce Goldstein. “Now the selections are healthier for students with a redesign that forces them to choose a salad, such as a composed grain salad, that makes sense,” Phillips explained.
Tony Almeida, director of food and nutrition services for Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, underscored the point that most of what hospital foodservice directors provide is identical to the offering served in B&I locations.
In regard to buying local, Almeida says he's teaming up with major distributors to buy “Jersey Fresh.” Purchasing “organic” is not an issue here, he finds. “We're a major teaching hospital and not one person has asked for ‘organic’ — but we are talking to local vendors and aim to buy ‘in season.’”
Rounding out the panel of operator experts, Julienne Stewart, the 2003 Silver Plate winner in B&I and foodservice manager for SAS Institute, presented her perspective on the B&I scene.
She noted that, even in a sluggish economy, her breakfast sales have recently grown by 10%.
“We knew we had to grow breakfast sales,” Stewart explained. “Ten years ago we made it grab ‘n go, but now we've added to it with freshly made oatmeal and grits every morning as well as more whole grains — and we'll be adding more gourmet coffee. We also offer a heart healthy option with a nutrition breakout, and smaller portions are available.”
(For a longer report on the presentations at CIC, go to http://food-management.com/ news_briefs/sfm_critical_issues_conference0425. For a gallery of photos from the event, go to http://food-management.com/video).