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Facebook’s latest foray leaves food delivery rivals worried

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Facebook has launched its very own food ordering and delivery service, combining the convenience of social media with the popularity of food delivery

On Friday 13 October Facebook, king of the social media world, announced the launch of its latest feature, which allows users to order food for either pick-up or delivery. This comes a month after another internet giant, Amazon, announced its partnership with Olo, a restaurant ordering software.

In a press release, Facebook’s newsroom associated the release of the ‘Order Food’ feature with a new age of simplified food delivery.

“People already go to Facebook to figure out what to eat by reading about nearby restaurants and seeing what their friends say about them,” says Alex Himel, vice president of Local Facebook.

“Facebook combines options from a number of food ordering services like EatStreet, Delivery.com, DoorDash, ChowNow and Olo,” Himel continues. The report also discloses that Facebook has teamed up with a number of nationwide restaurant brands such as Five Guys, Papa John’s, Chipotle and Panera.

The rise and rise of social media

This move towards food delivery is all part of a wider push to enhance user experience through the social media platform. In an earlier newsroom report, Facebook announced the intention to introduce “a variety of new features that help you use those connections to discover new things in the world around you.”

These new features include functions within the Facebook app and website such as requesting an appointment at local businesses such as hair salons and spas, getting a quote for services provided by companies relevant to your needs, and buying tickets to events.

As of right now, these features are only available in the U.S. markets, but Facebook has already promised this is only the beginning of further advancements, stating, “This is the first step, and over the coming months we’ll be launching even more new features that will make it easier to get things done, make confident decisions and communicate directly with businesses on your time and terms.”

Food: always in fashion

Facebook is not the only online threat to established food ordering and delivery services. On the announcement that Amazon had aligned itself with Olo, food order and delivery service GrubHub saw its shares drop by 7% in light of the revelation.

Equally, once Facebook announced its own food-related plans, GrubHub’s shares dropped a further 3%, with Facebook’s own shares rising by 1%.

However, Thomas Champion, analyst at financial services firm Cowen & Co., believes that ultimately, food order and delivery services do not have to be too nervous of Amazon and Facebook stepping on their toes.

“It remains an expansive $40bn-plus market in the US,” Champion explains, “with solid growth characteristics. We expect the delivery market to remain competitive and we think GrubHub will compete just fine.”

Emily Lewis

Poor uptake and legislative impetus means school cafeterias are shunning healthy foods – foodservice consultants should speak up for the long-term benefits, reports Thomas Lawrence

In 2010, then first lady, Michelle Obama threw her weight behind the Hunger Free Kids Act. The idea was to promote healthy eating in schools by overhauling standards; this entailed restrictions on salt content, a wholegrain-only menu and a new low-fat milk regime.

The plan was meant to herald a new era of public health, but its efficacy has come under scrutiny. As Scott Reitano FCSI – who works extensively with schools in Indiana – points out: “I appreciate that the first lady at the time brought up school lunch and made it one of her priorities. But the deeper government gets into it doesn’t mean it happens better”.

Some – for example the School Nutrition Association – say the Obama-era legislation was counterproductive from the outset. Strict rules meant some previously nutritious options were axed in favour of unpopular, pricier alternatives. Lunches that are both expensive and unappetizing have not gone down well in the nation’s cafeterias. Reitano sums it up: “It’s not enough whether they put broccoli on the plate, it’s whether they eat the broccoli”.

Earlier this year, the government took action. Agriculture secretary Sonny Perdue, Trump’s man in charge of school meal standards, pledged to relax the regulations. This will mean the postponement of sodium regulations for three years, as well as renewed permits for non-wholegrain rich products and flavored milk.

Despite legislative changes, Reitano argues it is possible to provide healthy food and solve childhood hunger, all while satisfying client demands. “The latest statistics I’ve seen are that one in six kids in this country are hungry. And we’ve got a vehicle to do something about it.”

Serving up change

With a Harvard Public Health study finding that 60% of vegetables and 40% of fruit is being thrown out, some states are taking matters into their own hands. California and Texas have passed legislation allowing schools to donate uneaten cafeteria food to the needy. But the system could be more efficient to begin with.

This is where foodservice consultants come in. “I don’t think USDA was about enticing children, it was about making sure there was healthier food on the plate”, says Reitano. “I think there’s a lot more where operational consultants come in to entice those children to eat that healthier food.”

Making school meals both popular and cost-efficient is the crucial challenge. Although their first duty is to clients, Reitano notes that foodservice consultants can have a lifelong impact on public health initiatives if they supply their own expertise – offering returns of its own in the long run. He gives the example of a new serving system implemented in two Indiana schools: “All of a sudden, 20% more kids are eating. Food waste is going down. It’s smart business and being part of the community to say this is how you improve participation in your programme – which includes higher revenue – but it’s an opportunity to change how children eat.”

Reducing food waste in schools needn’t be overcomplicated. Reitano taps into some simple psychological cues: “On a design end you can put fruit and vegetables first and present them nicely – slicing apples and peeling oranges increases consumption by over 68%. If you put something on your plate yourself you’re also more likely to eat it.”

Reitano also observes that foodservice consultants will have to be commercially savvy in order to stay relevant to younger audiences. Billions of dollars of advertisers’ cash will go into reaching children on tablets and mobile devices in the coming years. “Something like 70% of the marketing dollars spent on the children’s category is spent in the F&B world”, says Reitano. “We have to act like these are our consumers”.

Regulatory instability and sluggish uptake of healthy eating in schools is a typical example of the challenges consultants face when working with public bodies. Are there really opportunities open ahead? “Absolutely”, concludes Reitano. “We’re bringing the conversation forward. School lunch and foodservice is part of the curriculum and educational process”. Consultants themselves must learn how best to reach out to pupils going forward. Those involved in this conversation will have a pivotal role to play in shaping the industry over the coming years.

Thomas Lawrence

Stacy Berry, director of marketing & communications for FCSI The Americas Division, speaks to Michael Jones about the many benefits of FCSI The Americas’ Experts Network, which launched in September 2017

 

Why has FCSI The Americas launched this initiative now? What are you hoping to achieve with the network? 

One of FCSI The Americas’ goals for 2017 was to market our consultants and also to provide tools to our consultants to market themselves. The Experts Network is just another way to do this. We are hoping this network will serve as a resource to those who need an expert in the foodservice and hospitality industry. We know FCSI Consultants are the best in their field and want to make sure that their knowledge is used to its full potential in the market.

Who is the network aimed at specifically? How will it help them?

This network is aimed at anyone who needs an independent foodservice consultant to comment, write, or speak as an expert. This could include, but not limited to, the media, other associations, educators, architects, operators, dealers, and manufacturers. All of our consultants have specific experience that gives them a unique view on the foodservice industry. Their professionalism and experience will give the end user the best information in the market.

What are the different ways industry professionals can use the network?

The possible ways to use this network are

  • Quotes for blogs, news articles, books, etc.
  • Articles for publication
  • Presentations
  • Webinars
  • And anything else you would need the expertise of a foodservice consultant for
  • Our network makes it really easy to find consultants for the end user. You can search by location (city, state, and/or country), areas of expertise, and market segments.

What is the benefit of the network to FCSI professional members? 

This network is yet another way that FCSI The Americas promotes its members. This is an opportunity for our consultants to comment, write, or speak about the industry they are so passionate about. We hope that the connections made through the FCSI The Americas Experts Network will create long-term value for our consultant members.

How will you be promoting the network?

We launched the network a few weeks ago with a press release, email to our members, and social media. The network is hosted on our webpage, which you can find here. We plan to continue promotion, not only digitally, but also in person at the many trade shows we attend every year and our 2018 Denver Conference in April.

What other initiatives do you plan to launch later this year?

Through the end of 2017, we plan to continue to launch our Serving Up Solutions videos each month. We have some great videos in the lineup for the rest of the year including Kris Morphis on Technology’s Impact on Foodservice Design, Armand Iaia FCSI, on the Importance of Sanitation, and Kristin Sedej FCSI, on the Importance of Programming in a Project.

We are also continuing our Membership Drive through the end of the year. We are asking our members to recruit and refer qualified foodservice professionals to FCSI and by doing so they can win some great prizes.

Why has this been an exciting year for FCSI TA? 

FCSI TA has had a very exciting and busy 2017. We hit the ground running in February with our 2017 Symposium in Orlando, FL, before the NAFEM Show. The Symposium is also where we launched our Serving Up Solutions video series that we have been releasing one video a month featuring our consultants. Webinars by FCSI also launched this year, where we provided three webinars to our members. The webinars had a great response and also provided an opportunity for our consultants to earn Continuing Education Units (CEUs). We have also participated in six trade shows throughout the Americas including two in Brazil and one in Mexico. Those are just the events at the division level. Our chapters have also hosted numerous meetings, educational opportunities and networking events throughout the year.

How is 2018 shaping up for FCSI TA? 

While continuing to promote our current initiatives, we are extremely excited to what 2018 is going to bring, especially our Denver Conference, April 19-21, 2018. The FCSI TA Conference Planning Committee and staff have been busy planning all of the education, networking and fun. Thursday we will kick off the conference with the Opening Party at the Pinnacle Club. Both Friday and Saturday will include a full day of education followed by evening events at our host hotel and Punch Bowl Social, respectively. In addition, we are offering complimentary professional head shots both Thursday and Friday of the conference. It is going to be an event that you won’t want to miss!

Michael Jones

The Canadian government has laid down a deadline of 1 July 2018 for the legalisation of recreational cannabis, but the benefits for foodservice may be slow to trickle through, reports Thomas Lawrence

Early indications from fast-moving provinces like Ontario suggest that, while the sale of cannabis will become commonplace after legalisation, edible products will remain prohibited. This is despite recommendations against smoking marijuana from the country’s medical bodies.

Canada’s government has suggested it will deal with cannabis-infused products at a later date. But the bill’s passage through parliament could have a profound effect on Canada’s foodservice and hospitality industry nonetheless, as the experience south of the border demonstrates.

Sluggish uptake?

The combined medical and recreational cannabis industry is predicted to be worth about $22bn in America by 2020. But in countries like Canada where the legalisation process is only just beginning, there are roadblocks to be dealt with.

Speaking to Foodservice Consultant magazine last year, FCSI associate member AJ Barker – based in Washington State, US, where cannabis has been legal for recreational use since 2012 – noted the barriers to entering America’s marijuana industry. Firms hoping to gain a foothold must wade through divergent state-to-state legislation; “to buy into this business is going to cost you $700,000 to $1m”, says Barker.

Canadian consultant Patrick Watt FCSI of A DAY IN LIFE Foodservice Development points out the situation is different in Canada, where national rather than state-level legalisation is on the cards. But the immediate expense is the same. According to Watt’s financial contacts, “The idea that everyone wants to be first in on the production side is probably a poor investment.” Heavy regulation means cannabis will likely remain the preserve of top conglomerates when first rolled out.

Financial obstacles aside, Watt also notes cultural factors which could hamper the nationwide weed rollout. Vendors in Colorado and Washington “came out full force with edibles” upon legalisation, he says, “leading to horror stories of people supposed to eat a tenth of a chocolate bar and eating the whole thing.”

Canada’s lawmakers are planning a much more cautious approach, if their prohibition of these edibles is anything to go by. “The government is saying we want to be the leaders in pot education,” says Watt – adoption of the drug by businesses will be impeded accordingly.

An appetite for pot

Short-term obstructions aside, the appetite for wider access to cannabis is strong in Canada. According to recent research by Sylvain Charlebois of Dalhousie University, 46% of Canadians would try cannabis-infused food products were they commercially available. 39% said they would try these products in a restaurant.

The immediate priority for foodservice firms, according to Watt, should be focusing on the “potential value added bracket” rather than wholesale transformation. “This would include cannabis culinary activity, cannabis tourism activity, right down to cannabis themed restaurants like you see in New York City these days,” he says. With only 20% of Charlebois’ respondents saying they feel knowledgeable enough to do their own marijuana infusions at home, restaurants and caterers can take the lead.

Furthermore, contrasting with America’s jumbled state-based approach and the Netherlands’ quasi-legal cannabis culture, Canada offers the first example of a country attempting uniform nationwide legalisation. Provinces then hammer down the specific legal framework, allowing foodservice firms to take or leave the potential commercial advantages of cannabis as they see fit.

“This is where you’ll start getting the coffeehouse areas,” says Watt. “You could even visualise a resort or something along those lines. You sign up, come into the controlled environment, hang out on the deck and smoke weed or eat cookies.”

Whatever happens, Watt rightly notes that uptake of cannabis in Canada’s foodservice sector is “inevitable”. With businesses and tax collectors alike rubbing their hands at the impending revenue windfall, feet-dragging regulators can’t get in the way forever. Foodservice and hospitality firms should prepare now for a culture shift.

Further information

At the FCSI The Americas 2018 Conference in Denver, Colorado (19-21 April 2018), keynote speaker Jaime Lewis, a cannabis industry expert, will discuss the subject of cannabis and foodservice in depth. Further details can be found here.

Thomas Lawrence

 

Pictured: Mark Emery’s Cannabis Culture store in Vancouver, Canada

Consultant Joe Schumaker FCSI is raising funds to open one of the area’s first-ever foodservice innovation hubs

For many budding foodservice entrepreneurs, the challenge is not in having great ideas, but in having the valuable business counsel that can turn their dream into reality. Enter foodspace+co, a food business incubator based in Silicon Valley, US, designed to provide business coaching in every aspect of foodservice.

The fresh take on the “traditional” tech business incubator is the brainchild of Joseph Schumaker FCSI, co-founder and veteran foodservice consultant who has worked with some of the most well known companies in the Valley to elevate their foodservice programs.

“We are excited to become the innovation hub for foodservice on the west coast,” says Schumaker. “The primary mission of foodspace+co is to provide the support, guidance, and skills necessary to launch a successful foodservice venture. The incubator model has produced some of the most innovative ideas in the tech industry and we’re applying the same formula to nourish the next generation of foodservice entrepreneurs.”

Besides business counsel and support, foodspace+co will also offer existing businesses food truck parking, time in its on-site commissary kitchens and office space rental. Incubatees in foodspace+co will include startups in all aspects of the food industry, including traditional food businesses, consumer packaged goods (CPG), caterers, food trucks, food and agricultural tech companies, and more.

A six-month long incubator program will include business plan development, branding and marketing, bookkeeping and financial planning, legal support, consulting services and mentorship. After six months, successful participants will “graduate” and continue to remain partners and benefit from ongoing support.

“All incubatees become part of our +community and continue to receive support and guidance from foodspace+co partners,” explains Schumaker. “We will teach and facilitate pitch sessions with potential investors to help our incubator program participants secure additional funds. Eventually our goal is to build an accelerator fund so we can make add-on investments for our “incubatees” after they have graduated from the program. They will always be alumni and part of the +community.”

In addition, foodspace+co is working with various manufacturers to build innovative kitchens with top of the line equipment that participants, chefs and the local community can use to test out different pieces of equipment side-by-side. Members will also have access to the collective buying power of the foodservice+co incubator, enabling them to have a large enough purchasing account to receive crucial deals for foodservice supplies from area distributors.

“We are aligned with food distributors as well as local producers to give these startups access that they might not otherwise have,” says Schumaker. “Harnessing the power of multiple small business to increase access to tertiary services like food buying, healthcare benefits for employees, and other costly services that businesses incur.”

Borrowing another page from the tech industry playbook, foodspace+co will also host monthly “chef-a-thon” innovation sessions similar to hack-a-thons in the tech industry. During these events, entrepreneurs and chefs will be given a variety of ingredients to inspire innovation and uncover trends in menu development.

Sustainability is important to the foodspace+co community and Schumaker says they will work to make sure the physical space is dedicated to water reclamation and recycling, saving on energy and reducing food waste overall with a net zero approach. “We will build out our commissary kitchen according to the highest green building standards,” Schumaker says. “I think it’s important that foodspace+co is innovative in all facets of the industry, and sustainability is included.”

About foodspace+co:
foodspace+co is a food business incubator in Silicon Valley designed to provide business coaching in every aspect of foodservice, including traditional food businesses, consumer product goods (CPG), caterers, food trucks, food and agricultural tech companies, and more. For more information, please visit www.foodspaceco.com

Pictured: Joseph Schumaker FCSI

Firms across the Caribbean and America have been buffeted by recent storm surges, demonstrating why preparedness is key, reports Thomas Lawrence

A hurricane surge has wreaked havoc across the Caribbean islands and southern USA. Together, hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose, Katia and Maria have caused billions of dollars of damage from Texas to Grenada.

The effect on commerce has been profound. America’s Federal Emergency Management Agency estimates 40% of small businesses will never reopen after a disaster. Insurance can help firms recoup some of the damage, but the scale of destruction has a lasting legacy. Severed communications means many businesses are yet to hear back from their providers, and infrastructural regeneration could take years.

Ken Schwartz FCSI of SSA is based in Tampa, Florida, and was forced to evacuate when Irma struck. “We’re in Tampa in the central part of the state on the west side and we were spared,” he says. “But we have friends and clients in St. Bart’s who got hit really hard. Luckily they were spared from Maria, but we also have clients in Puerto Rico as well.”

The intense and ongoing damage from this year’s hurricane season has affected everyone in the region. The devastating impact on supply chains, workforces and tourism means foodservice and hospitality are feeling the squeeze.

The foodservice perspective

With storm damage this far reaching, businesses are feeling the effects in different ways. Many foodservice and hospitality firms have found themselves in precarious positions.

The region is a hotbed for tourism, as Schwartz points out. “When you think of these islands – Caribbean, British and French West Indies and so on – so much of their industry is hospitality and tourism. Without the ability to host and service guests, they’re out of business for a while.”

The fallout from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which saw national growth and employment figures take a tumble in America, offers an insight into just how devastating natural disasters can be for business. Some firms are better placed to cope than others.

Starbucks, for instance, closed 700 of its stores in the build-up to Hurricane Irma. It has also offered special pay packages to employees who are unable to work due to closures and storm damage.

But Schwartz notes that many small providers are in a more difficult position. Some are forced to close down, but no employer does so “by choice”, he says. “In most foodservice operations only management is salary. Most work hourly or hourly plus tips – if these guys don’t work they don’t get paid. There are probably millions of people in that category.”

Natural disasters place intense pressure on foodservice and hospitality. Neither workers nor managers can operate at full capacity, and firms’ bottom lines take the hit.

Weathering the storm

If a hurricane hits, what can businesses do? “You’ve got to have a best case and a worse case scenario plan,” says Schwartz. “The power could be out for days. There might be nothing physically wrong with your space, but you just don’t have electricity. All of these things are so out of your control.”

Schwartz adds: “the best scenario is figure out what you have to do to get up and running and soon as possible, even if it’s with minimal offerings.” Restaurants may consider offering a partial menu, or keeping the bar open even if the kitchen shuts. Doing so can ease businesses back into regular operations in the immediate aftermath of a crisis, as well as providing welcome respite for the local community.

Schwartz also urges firms to make the most of resources available to liaise with staff and clients. Social media is an indispensable tool when other communication channels are disrupted. “If you think about it, your customers are your prime followers,” says Schwartz. “It’s the best means to communicate with them.”

It is absolutely essential for foodservice and hospitality firms to prepare for the worst. This means securing key equipment before disaster strikes, making effective use of available communication channels at the peak and gently facilitating the return to business as usual in the following weeks and months.

But Schwartz’s concluding message contains the most important advice of all. Carrying costs and lost revenue hurt in the short term – “But that is far outweighed by people’s safety. When the decision’s made and it’s time to evacuate, a lot of people will sit back. They’ll say they’ve done it the last two or three times and nothing has happened. But that’s the time you’ll get really surprised. It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

Thomas Lawrence

Markets across South America are being forced to adapt as globalisation piles the pressure on local firms, with foodservice a potential beneficiary, reports Thomas Lawrence

It’s a tough time to be an entrepreneur in Brazil. Markets have been wobbling since 2014 under the weight of ongoing corruption scandals, with political casualties at both state and national level.

Despite financial and economic malaise, Brazil remains a desirable place to do business. Part of the BRIC group of developing nations, Brazil’s immense size, population and potential for growth means multinational firms are increasingly turning their attention to the country.

Amazon is one such example, according to supply chain consultancy Crimson & Co. Despite the linguistic and geopolitical hurdles, the retail giant is anxious to replicate its international success in South America. “In turn”, says Richard Gurney, Crimson & Co’s general manager for Latin America, “this has acted as a massive wake-up call for how businesses locally manage their supply chain and logistics.”

This is a significant trend. Stagnant economic activity, combined with the need to ruthlessly innovate, is creating a pressurised atmosphere for firms in developing markets. But the long-term evolution of supply chains, and wider changes associated with globalisation, is a positive development for foodservice.

Supply chain sophistication

Crimson & Co’s analysis of the Brazilian supply chain makes for interesting reading. Slowly but surely, it suggests inefficient ways of working are being squeezed out.

Amazon’s aggressive investment has raised the bar for companies of all kinds. Central to this is the firm’s approach to shipping. Undaunted by the size of North America, Europe and now Brazil, technological and infrastructural innovation is helping to turn vast regions into profitable markets.

By contrast, domestic firms have fallen back on more traditional supply chains. This means failing to collaborate with other parts of the business, reluctance to spearhead change by mobilizing capital and trying desperately to minimise costs. Gurney concludes: “In crude terms it is often looking at how to get products of materials from point A to point B in the cheapest way possible.”

Amazon’s intervention has laid the ground for change. Although it will mean a period of rapid adaptation for the Brazilian economy, early signals suggest many businesses are up to the challenge. This includes designated supply chain teams and increased investment in personnel from the most cutting-edge organisations.

Gurney is upbeat about the implications for the region: “Firms are now much leaner and agile to market changes, and as more and more retailers come into the region we only expect this to improve further.” He points out the example of Sao Paulo-based magazine Luiza. The electronics retailer has invested heavily in online services to compete with the industry’s big hitting newcomers. “This has led to an important turnaround for its results over the past 2-3 years,” says Gurney, “driven through an excellent e-commerce platform for its customers.”

The foodservice perspective

Supply chains have been a more pressing issue in foodservice quarters than most. Particularly for South America’s biggest home-grown firms, distance from these operations has allowed reduced quality and bribery to creep in, with repercussions for the whole region.

In the last year alone, accusations that meat giants BRF and JBS were bribing health officials to export unsafe produce overseas culminated in a series of police raids. “This has seen a huge proportion of the Brazilian population actively avoid eating meat produced by JBS,” says Gurney. “This has presented huge challenges for the supermarkets who have actively needed to source products from a variety of new suppliers.”

The risks from supply chain flippancy are greater for foodservice firms than most. Crimson & Co’s research suggests globalisation will force small and medium businesses to adapt their operations or die. However, there are potential rewards to be found in the changing landscape. The reality could be much more collaborative.

Consider the entry of UberEATS to Sao Paulo at the end of 2016. The home delivery industry’s massive growth has forced caterers and restaurateurs across the world to evolve, but tapping into diners’ desires to eat quality food at home has made for a winning business model. It’s a great example of multinational corporations and regional producers working in tandem for the benefit of all – the former supply their capital and global outlook, the latter supply their local expertise and insights.

Nevertheless, as Gurney points out, the road ahead for foodservice firms is likely to be rocky. The burgeoning home delivery market is a positive development, but “has largely only taken off off among high-end consumers and more upmarket supermarkets.”

Additionally, Brazil’s ailing infrastructure is holding back supply chain innovators. Logistics and transport are the two standout challenges. “Soya and corn, for example, have suffered due to lack of acceptable infrastructure in road and rail links,” says Gurney. “In the first quarter of 2017, many tonnes were lost due to insufficient warehousing.”

Globalisation means the incursion of conglomerates into developing markets will accelerate in the coming years. This will have wide-ranging implications for how firms operate, from supply chain to the point of delivery.

Foodservice firms who prove unwilling to innovate may not survive the industry’s rapid evolution. But the example of other retailers in Brazil shows adaptation is possible. Caterers and restaurateurs must make the most of new platforms and the opportunities to press for infrastructural improvement as global firms enter the market. Over time, this will give the entire foodservice sector a much-needed boost.

Thomas Lawrence

This article was updated on 19 September.

Pictured: Sao Paulo’s bustling skyline

Concerns for the US foodservice industry rise as president Trump leans towards severing the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) with Mexico and Canada

Since 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) has worked to effectively eliminate trade barriers between the US, Mexico and Canada. Back in January, US president Donald J. Trump announced his intention to renegotiate the agreement, after his original election campaign promised the end of Nafta.

With negotiations having resumed for a second stage in Mexico City, following a tense first round in Washington in August with the Trump administration declaring Nafta had “fundamentally failed”, doubts continue to loom regarding the future of the deal. Last year, Mexico imported $10.5bn worth of fruit and vegetables to the US, leading to speculations over what a tightened tariff system could mean for foodservice operators across the country.

FCSI associate Carlos Tello, principal of Arquitectura+Culinaria and based in Morelos, Mexico, recognises the significant traction that the Canadian foodservice industry could gain if Trump pulls out from Nafta. “Canada would be a winner since they will not break the agreement with Mexico,” he says. “Mexico has many other free trade agreements including the European Union and Asia. If the US imposes restrictions or withdraws from the agreement, then it will leave a vacuum that other trade partners could take advantage of.”

Potential consequences

Founder of Profitality LLC Juan Martinez FCSI, who is US-based, also commented on the potential consequences created by the end of free trade in the Americas. Given the amount of foodstuffs traded between Mexico and the US, the prospects are unclear for restaurants that rely heavily on imported ingredients. “In the meantime, prices will fluctuate. It is very easy to resolve this with price increases, but if you increase the price, you have less volume. If you have less volume you have less money, if you have less money you have more of a chance of closing,” he says.

There are also apprehensions over competition, with grocery stores having the ability to undercut restaurant prices. Martinez recognises that, while restaurants may have to make up for pricey tariffs on food from Mexico through even pricier dishes, “groceries don’t have as much pressure as restaurants do, as they don’t have the pressure for labour.”

However, Martinez can’t help but offer some words of comfort over the ordeal. Although 80% of the US’ avocados are imported from Mexico, Martinez believes that the industry will be able to bounce back eventually by finding new ingredients to focus on. “Let’s say that for some reason, with what’s going on with Nafta, avocados become harder to get hold of, and the prices go up. Guess what? The industry will stop using avocados and find another hero.”

Meanwhile, the negotiations continue with the three countries following up five further days of negotiations with another round in Canada later in September. Additional rounds of negotiations are expected to follow later this year. Mexico faces additional pressure for a positive outcome as it will host presidential elections in July 2018 with a new deal likely to be a hard sell for politicians preparing for the long road of campaigning.

Emily Lewis

Eric Norman FCSI speaks to associate member Stephanie Ward about her career as a foodservice consultant

For FCSI to continue to grow and prosper as the vibrant Society we all know today, we must look to our newer and younger members to carry the torch into the future. A large part of the sustainability of FCSI is our Committee for Emerging Consultants (C4EC). We look to C4EC to encourage members to pursue professional membership as well as take part in volunteer opportunities and prepare for future leadership roles in FCSI. I had the pleasure of speaking with one of our C4EC members to learn more about her life and career as a foodservice consultant.

Stephanie Ward works for Foodservice Consultants Studio based in Henrico, VA. She graduated with a BA in Liberal Arts from Thomas Aquinas College in California and then went on to participate in one year of graduate school for Architecture at the University of Notre Dame. She left school in 2009 to get married and help her husband start a historic renovation business.

Like many of us in FCSI, Stephanie was not necessarily looking to get in to foodservice consulting as a career. As it happened, she had never even heard of consulting as a career path and happened upon the job listing at Foodservice Consultants Studio on Craigslist. With her background in AutoCAD and Revit, Stephanie gave it a shot and sent in a resume and cover letter to the firm. As they say, the rest is history.

She first got a taste of kitchen design five years before exploring it as a potential career. The summer after college graduation, the kitchen manager at her alma mater found out Stephanie knew the AutoCAD design software. The manager was interested in reorganizing a cook line and adding some equipment pieces to the kitchen, and asked Stephanie if she would be interested in drawing up the plans and elevations for the contractors. She laboriously drew each item from scratch based on the cut sheet data in order to put the drawing together for construction. Stephanie said about this experience, “Destiny was knocking, but it was going to take me another five years to answer the door.”

Now, after having spent some time in the industry, Stephanie has a great outlook on career, life, and FCSI.

What do you find most rewarding about your career in foodservice consulting?
I take great satisfaction in knowing that a correctly designed kitchen will be a joy to work in for years to come. Efficient, pleasant, environmentally friendly work spaces have a ripple effect in society and beyond. Kitchens are no exception.

How has membership in FCSI benefited you and your firm and what do you think is the greatest value of being a member?
My coworkers helped me set up my FCSI associate membership my first week on the new job. It didn’t take me long to learn why: I’ve benefited from every FCSI educational event that I’ve attended. Later I enjoyed giving back as a co-presenter at a FCSI Symposium, where five of us shared our experience taking our company into the cloud.

The greatest value of FCSI membership belongs to Professional members. Our clients have peace of mind knowing they are hiring the most highly qualified individuals in the industry.

How did FCSI implement the “self-management” company culture? What are some of the pros and cons of this style of office management?
Several years ago, our whole company read Beyond Empowerment: The Age of the Self-Managed Organization by Doug Kirkpatrick. We collectively made the decision to evolve into a company where no one was ‘boss’. That doesn’t mean we are disorganized, simply that our organization is ‘flat’ rather than ‘top down’. The pros of self-management are innovation, high company morale, flexibility, and a cross-skilled team. The cons of self-management come into play when there is not full buy-in for the concept. Self-management is for motivated, responsible professionals. The skill set can be learned, but it takes enthusiasm, commitment, and a shared vision to make it work.

What advice would you have for anyone contemplating a career in foodservice consulting?
The best place to learn is on the job. If you are new to this profession, do everything in your power to land a job with a seasoned company. Join FCSI. Get to know other FCSI consultants. Learning AutoCAD and Revit never hurts. And never stop asking questions!

What are your thoughts on the demographics of our industry and society?  At our Symposium at NAFEM the speaker that talked about demographics mentioned that we are definitely an older and mostly male and white dominated group. What are your thoughts on this?
It is our duty both as individuals and a community to promote respect and equal opportunity for all persons. Personally, I have been privileged to be part of a woman-owned business, and I have had support and mentorship from an amazing mixed-gender team. Foodservice somewhat lacks the excitement and glamor that typically draws a younger, more diverse crowd. I’m thinking the arts, media, and medicine, for example. I suspect the recent industry compensation survey results will have compelling data to attract new talent. FCSI needs to keep getting the word out to motivated job seekers of every background about this satisfying, dynamic, and gainful career path.

What are some of your future career goals both within your firm and as a member of FCSI?
We don’t have titles here at Foodservice Consultants Studio. My goal is to continue to expand my skill set and responsibilities until the day I am ready to ‘run point’ on projects. In due course, I look forward to earning my Professional FCSI designation. Beyond that are years of interesting work across the whole spectrum of foodservice design.

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Foodservice Consultants Studio is a Woman Owned/Small/Micro Certified (SWaM #661777) company based out of central Virginia. The team is comprised of Amy Hegarty, Stephanie Gatewood, Doug Huber, Renee Huber and Stephanie Ward. FCS is very proud of their highly credentialed and experienced designers and dedicated to passing on all that hard-won knowledge to the next generation of consultants. Stephanie is the ‘Gen-Y’ member of the firm and has enjoyed learning the ropes of the profession while at the same time becoming a new mom, made possible by their remote offices and flexible work environment. FCS’s ‘Self-Management’ company culture has ensured each colleague maintains a fantastic work/life balance while consistently meeting and exceeding their customer’s needs and expectations. All this, along with their combination of differing personalities, varied experience, and knowledge of existing, new, and emerging technologies, has made the team a powerhouse.

 

Pictured: Stephanie Ward of Foodservice Consultants Studio and Eric Norman FCSI of Clevenger Associates