The sense of renewed optimism about the direction of the Society for Foodservice Management was almost palpable at its annual conference in September, when 365+ members gathered for two days of educational sessions and networking in Las Vegas.
Outgoing President Barbara Kane pointed to a number of new initiatives the organization has embarked on over the past year, and in particular to its successful transition to the FSA management group for its administration.
In her opening keynote presentation remarks, Cosi CEO Karen Stutz described how she rose from a frontline employee at a McDonald's restaurant to hold executive positions at Applebee's and the Brinker organization before taking on her current role. Stutz went on to share the challenges she has had in efforts to turn around the Cosi restaurant chain and offered key leadership lessons for others facing similar challenges.
“Turnarounds require highly visible leadership,” she said. “I underestimated the demands it would make on my time.” Her most important advice: “Surround yourself with talent—immediately! In a turnaround, you need to focus on developing those with talent and replacing those who are a drag on the organization with others who bring talent and enthusiasm.”
In other sessions, attendees explored the ways commercial restaurant design is influencing that in business dining; how science-based menu changes can help organizations improve the health and wellness of employees; how social media strategies can be used to improve the connections between foodservice operators and their customers; and how attendees could employ Ritz-Carlton strategies and a focus on emotional intelligence to inspire staff to achieve service excellence.