The FM IDEAS Conference, an annual educational and networking event this magazine has sponsored for the past half dozen years, has always sought an agenda that plays to the unique challenges our readers share in the onsite marketplace.
We've focused on themes ranging from elevating the retail experience to establishing an entrepreneurial culture, all the while showcasing the best practices, concepts and ideas we could find from across the onsite community.
FM IDEAS has had a pretty successful run, but we know, just as you do, that you can never just “sit on your laurels.” The whole idea of continuous improvement is you should never be satisfied with what you've accomplished so far.
The challenge we set for ourselves after last year's conference was to take the event to a new level by finding a way to make it even more relevant to the community we serve. But how?
It was very shortly after that when, as so often happens, an unexpected opportunity came our way.
Many of you probably know that Food Management's parent company, Penton Media, Inc., acquired Nation's Restaurant News last December, adding it to the over 100 other leading business publications in its magazine portfolio. As NRN joined Food Management, Restaurant Hospitality and our Show Dailies to form a new Restaurant Group, we began meeting internally to explore ways we might work together on some projects while still maintaining our individual brands and strengths.
One of NRN's particular strengths, and one I have personally admired for a long time, has been its annual MUFSO and Menu Trends conference package, a solid part of the foodservice scene for more than 50 years. While this event focuses largely on multi-unit chain operators, I've always observed that there are a surprising number of challenges that such operators have in common with those in Food Management's audience.
In fact, large numbers of FM readers find themselves operating not only multiple units but also multiple concepts. Today, any FSD overseeing a food court or scatter-station cafeteria has to balance the wide-ranging pricing, menu mix and participation variables that these multiple “units” command. If a particular concept tires and its customer base shrinks, they must tinker with it or morph it into something entirely different, all the while looking to keep the broader portfolio of station concepts or units profitable, in demand and in balance.
Add to this the challenge FSDs face at large campus institutions, where it is not uncommon to find as many as 20 or more separate point-of-service locations, ranging from coffee shops to c-stores, dining halls to student union food courts, snack carts to catering and concession departments.
Multi-unit operators? Food Management's readership includes many thousands of them, often with jobs that require an approach and skill set that is far more demanding than that required to manage multiple single menu operations.
So while I hate to mention the over-used word “synergy,” it seemed to us that there was a great opportunity to morph our own IDEAS Conference concept into something better by holding it in conjunction with NRN's top events. This will let us take advantage of some of the world-class keynote presentations that mark MUFSO's programs and also tap into its highly-regarded Menu Trends presentations and R&D insights.
At the same time, we'll also continue our own tradition of onsite-specific panels, speakers and case studies. In coming weeks I'll be working closely with our conference planning team to ensure that FM IDEAS continues to offer plenty of dedicated content geared specifically to our readers while also taking advantage of our group's larger conference opportunities.
So, with a bit of fanfare (drum roll…) we're pleased to announce that this year's IDEAS Conference will be held on September 26-28, in Dallas, Texas, alongside MUFSO and Menu Trends.
We'll be releasing more details about the program in coming weeks and are excited to bring this new opportunity to you. Pencil those dates in on your calendar and stay tuned. We think the best FM IDEAS conferences we've ever offered are coming your way.