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A New Generation of Foodservice Professionals

Elsewhere in this issue, FM highlights 25 up-and-coming individuals whom our editors selected to represent the new generation of operators we see coming into its own from among our readership in healthcare, corporate dining, school, college and university foodservices.

While it is true that new faces are continuously emerging in every industry, it is our sense that a fairly dramatic shift is taking place in the noncommercial side of food-service right now.

Part of this may simply be due to a combination of career track life cycles and demographics: many directors with tenure in institutional settings earn the opportunity to opt for early retirement packages in their mid 50s and nd plenty of reasons to do so. Large numbers of the post-WWII generation of baby boomers will have the chance to take such options in the next few years.

Part may also be due to the changing nature of the foodservice director s position. Today s department heads and managers have more responsibility than ever before, with increasing numbers of them taking on multi-department or multi-location management responsibilities. They are being asked to manage a much broader range of service offerings as a result of trends in branding, concept development, retail merchandising and the assignment of P&L responsibilities.

Many are nding their career opportunities enhanced by classic business and market planning disciplines that allow them to contribute in larger ways to the missions, objectives and nancial health of their host organizations.

The pace of change in virtually every segment, but most especially in healthcare, has picked up so rapidly that it is vastly accelerating the evolution of departmental structures and career tracks.

Finally, the growth in contracted foodservice contributes to the change as well, offering an alternate model for how onsite services are provided, managed and evaluated. On the institutional side, witness the growth and diversity of contract liaison positions; within foodservice management companies, consider the new career opportunities created as these organizations have broadened in size, service scope and segment reach.

Add all of this up, and you nd an opportunistic market that, quite in contrast to the larger foodservice industry s mature image, is generating career tracks that are much more diverse and open ended than they have been in the past.

This brings me to an interesting point because, among the capsule bios of our Generation Next candidates, you will find some who have made their mark by converting contracted operations back to self-op alongside others from contract companies who are obviously focused on doing just the opposite.

We at FOOD MANAGEMENT do not see either model as superior to the other. Rather, we like to think that as alternate business models, the two approaches have tended to raise the bar for foodservices generally in terms of the quality and diversity of food offered, the way service costs are evaluated and the standards for personal professionalism that the industry s best operators hold for themselves.

The professionalism of operators and staff on either side of the aisle (as they say in the Congress) is enhanced by the perceived competition. At the same time, I wonder sometimes if that sense of competition doesn't often become somewhat counter-productive. In the end, putting one's emphasis on the competition ((whatever or whomever you perceive that to be) is hardly ever as productive as focusing on improving the quality and value of your own services.

In looking for common denominators that characterize the individuals in our Generation Next package, I'd say it is a commitment to one s personal best, to establishing one s own standards of excellence and innovation, that has proven the surest mark of long-term career potential. And whether one works as a self op or as a contract services provider, individual success seems inevitably to come from establishing and striving for these individual standards of excellence.

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