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SFM Explores "Critical Issues"

QUOTE OF THE MONTH

"If you are not doing it now, start doing it—never miss an opportunity to tout technique."

-Nancy Kruse, president, the Kruse Co., at the recent SFM Critical Issues Conference, encouraging onsite operators to romance and describe their culinary practices as a way of promoting the quality of their services.

Members and guests of the Society for Foodservice Management (SFM) gathered in New York City recently for the SFM Critical Issues Conference.The single-day event was hosted by regional foodservice management firm CulinArt, Inc., at its recently opened operation at the United Federation ofTeachers Building on Broadway in Lower Manhattan.

A number of individual presentations and panel discussions highlighted the event. Among them were welcome addresses by SFM President Ron Ehrhardt and CulinArt President Tom Eich, an industry retrospective from MBNA America Bank Executive Vice President (and recent Silver Plate winner—see p. 40) Gary Gunderson and a comprehensive discussion of consumer-driven menu trends by consultant Nancy Kruse, president of The Kruse Co..

The panel discussions, one dealing with Ease Through Technology and the other discussing Good Business Sense, were facilitated by another recent Silver Plate winner, Boston College Dining Services Director Patricia Bando (see p. 36).

The technology panel included-Christian Lecole, vice president of Global Dining Services forLehman Brothers,Inc.,andKathy Sanders, vice president or corporate services at Wachovia. As part of his presentation, Lecole talked about the technology challenges and security issues created by Lehman's late-night-dining program.

The Business Sense panel featured Traci Dunn, director of diversity at Compass Group North America; Kelly Ann Friend, vice president of operations for Whitsons Food Service Corp. and Arlene Spiegel, president of the Arlene Spiegel & Associates consulting firm.

Spiegel's comments provided attendees with examples of prototype commercial concepts that may have applicability to the onsite foodservice environment.

She also focused on the use of value-added products as a way to reduce production costs in even high-end kitchens. She talked about how outsourced products made it possible for eight people—only two of them chefs—to put on a highend eight-course luncheon for two thousand "foodies" at an event she had recently attended in New York.

The technology is available and the products are available," she noted. "It's just a matter of mindset."

Some of the ideas she discussed included a paella station, a Cuban cuisine concept and a crepe concept-that features cones filled with a variety of pre-prepared and individually rethermed fillings.

FIVE TRENDS TO WATCH FOR

In her presentation, Kruse Co. President Nancy Kruse offered a number of thoughts on food and eating trends that onsite operators might want to consider. Among them:

Offer comfort food favorites in somewhat new ways; as, for example, the "pot roast melt" at Claim Jumper restaurants.

Communicate a "hands-on" feel to establish technical credibility, since customers like to be reassured that what they are eating is made fresh for them, as, for example, the "hand-dipped" milkshakes at A&W.

Promote seasonal menus that "follow the sun." While advanced storage and global sourcing have blurred food seasonality, promoting ingredients that are "in season" has considerable impact in communicating freshness and healthfulness to customers.

Use ingredient colors to provide a "halo of health" to dishes and menus that play to consumers'increasing demands for fresh ingredients.

Understand that menus will always evolve, but that flavor remains the biggest trend of all. Low-carb and low fat eating are cyclical trends, but consumers will always demand that the food they eat tastes great.

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