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The Foodservice Directors of Tomorrow

Here's a question I've posed to foodservice directors in every segment in many conversations. Where will the talented foodservice directors of tomorrow come from?

The need will clearly be great. In segments ranging from K-12 education to colleges, to healthcare, to business dining, there are directors and unit managers who are part of the infamous baby boom and who will be looking to retire in the next five to 20 years. In many cases, they have mentored strong associate directors who will move into their positions. But in many other cases, there will be openings that will be very hard to fill.

Further, the director's role is more demanding today than it was in years past. It will be even more so in the future.

It is no longer enough just to be a manager of volume food production. Directors must also be accomplished people managers, sophisticated financial operators and have a knack for marketing, project management and other skills that are critical to running contemporary onsite businesses in the political and financial environments presented by today's host institutions and organizations.

For the most part, new directors have always emerged from within the ranks of foodservice department staff. I know a number of retired FSDs who point to the number of individuals they trained and mentored and who went on to become successful directors as the best mark of their own career success and their most significant legacy to the industry.

That's the way it has always been, and that's the way it will likely remain.

At the same time, that expectation assumes that the right people with the right skills are recruited into today's foodservice departments. It is only in this way that a meaningful candidate pool can be built. And when you ask directors to name the biggest challenge they face in their operations, finding talented staff is almost always at the top of the list.

It is an unfortunate fact of life that culinary and hospitality school graduates only rarely look to onsite careeers as their first choice after graduation. Some do eventually find their way to onsite careers, usually after discovering the many advantages onsite offers. But just as the foodservice industry at large would like to be considered the " Industry of Choice," those in onsite operations would like to be considered "Segments of Choice."

What brings this topic to mind is a project we at FOOD MANAGEMENT have been talking about for some time. That is, to find a way to make some of the content from FM available to hospitality management professors and instructors in a form that would lend itself to classroom use.

Again, the need is clearly there. Many hospitality management textbooks do only a mediocre job of describing the real business of onsite foodservice and many instructors have no direct experience in this area.

Textbook coverage of foodservice as it is actually practiced in the many segments covered by FM is often completely out of date. It almost never shows the contemporary dining halls, food courts, station concepts and production systems that one can read about in the pages of our magazine every month.

The result is that many hospitalitymanagement courses either gloss over career opportunities in our field, or are unable to present them in ways that make them appear as attractive alternatives to those in the lodging and commercial restaurant segments.

In a word, the onsite world of hospitality remains "institutional" in most college courses. And we'd like to do something about that.

To help address the problem, FM will later this year begin making available to qualified hospitality instructors a CD-ROM with selected "Best of FM" content specifically selected for classroom discussion.

It will include profiles of successful operators in various noncommercial segments, articles that have appeared in the magazine on topics such as foodservice purchasing, operations, and marketing, as well as suggestions for how these materials can be used to augment classroom discussions of noncommercial foodservice career opportunities.

Our goal is to improve the image of onsite foodservice as it appears to today's hospitality students (and to their instructors) and to introduce them to the many rewarding hospitality opportunities that exist in the segments served by FM.

If this project is one that you have an interest in, we'd welcome your thoughts and feedback. Drop me an e-mail at [email protected]. Be sure to put the phrase "FSDs of Tomorrow" in the subject line.

TAGS: Management
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