Masterclass – Paving Ways to Sustainability

Posted on


Paving ways to modern, sustainable, fully connected kitchens. Key considerations for planning and thermal equipment

When it comes to sustainability, everyone has to step up – governments, civil society, and industry alike. We have big goals ahead of us: sustainable growth, drastically reducing CO2 emissions, keeping our planet a place worth living. And we can only achieve those goals together, through a multi-pronged approach covering the entire value chain. But big things start small. With sustainable kitchen concepts, for example.

A firm commitment to innovation, digitization, and durability in investments is key to a comprehensive sustainability approach. But how does that translate into actual kitchen planning? How do we convince investors to support such an approach? How do sustainable kitchens benefit their users? And finally, what does all of this mean for you as a kitchen planning professional?

Robert Munday will be addressing these questions and many others, sharing knowledge and inspiration, ideas and solutions. We already associate Paris with the Climate Accords; after this masterclass, you’ll associate it with innovative – and sustainable – kitchen concepts as well.

Click here for the invitation to join the Rational Masterclass.

This session will form part of the Masterclass program during the 2022 FCSI EAME Conference. For information, please check out the full program.

Sustainability is at the core of the 2022 FCSI EAME Conference program, packed with inspiration, education and excellent hospitality and networking

The 2022 FCSI EAME conference has been a long time coming and finally it is here, as friends and colleagues gather in Chantilly for the much-anticipated conference, almost four years on from the last event bringing EAME members together.

Following on from the conference in Rotterdam, the organizing team has put together another great program packed with inspiring speakers, insightful master classes and fun activities. “We are building on the success of Rotterdam,” says FCSI executive director Elonique Dalhuisen, “We are again offering a good mix of knowledge sharing, innovation and networking even more content and meaning. The layout of the program is basically the same, but it goes without saying that there will be a new surprising twist.”

The event has been planned and diarized twice before, as the pandemic forced the world to put plans for in-person events on hold and forced everybody in foodservice to connect via virtual channels. “In the past two years we have organized very valuable content, including strong webinars and other online events. We are proud and pleased that this has intensified the mutual contact between members in the EAME-region and made the connection even stronger, but nothing will beat meeting in person in Chantilly in May,” adds Dalhuisen.

“We began preparing in 2019 for a conference in 2020. Because of Covid, we had to postpone it a few times and we deliberately chose a high-level location on the outskirts of Paris, where we have plenty of space both inside and out. These are challenging times for everyone in our industry. That is why we are extra excited to meet again in person.”

A unique opportunity

Allied and Professional FCSI members are looking forward to reuniting at an industry event, which will provide networking, education and entertainment in equal measures. “We are looking forward to seeing our friends and partners again after such a long time,” says Detlef Rank, director consultant management, RATIONAL AG. “This extraordinary setting represents a unique opportunity. We have already arranged several individual meetings, including with new RATIONAL colleagues attending for the first time. But this isn’t about our expectations – it’s about supporting the FCSI in the best possible way, in keeping with the theme of ‘we share, support and inspire.’ We all need the FCSI as the only globally organized platform for shaping standards for the kitchens of the future.”

The timing of the conference may have changed, but the theme has not. Sustainability has, if anything, gained more traction as people have an increased awareness of the importance of a climate responsible approach to foodservice. The organizing team have chosen to name the conference #TACT2022, which stands for Together, Action, Change, Transformation.

“The theme was already fixed. Given the social importance and impact on the world of food and hospitality we did not change that,” says FCSI EAME chair Remko van der Graaff.

The conference motto hits the nail on the head, according to Sebastian Hainz, executive vice president of sales and marketing MEIKO Group. “It reflects the situation in which the entire industry finds itself today – climate change, the pandemic, the recent political developments and other influences are all major and global challenges that our industry must adapt to,” he says. “And it is our common task that we help our customers to shape this change towards the future.”

Insight and education

After a welcome drinks reception on Thursday evening when delegates arrive at the Hyatt Regency in Chantilly, the conference program kicks off on Friday morning when Christine Schäfer, researcher and speaker from independent think tank the GDI Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute, takes the stage.

She will be followed by Benjamin Calleja, CEO of food and beverage design company Livit, who will be addressing the future of foodservice.

On day two, lecturer and consultant Bruno Parmentier who has written books about agriculture and world hunger will round off the keynote speakers on the main stage – prepare yourselves for an impactful presentation.

In addition to the program of keynote speakers there will be a comprehensive selection of masterclasses taking place in the afternoon of the first day. Speakers at the master classes will include:

  • Denis Daveine FCSI on eliminating plastics from foodservice
  • Dene Rachid FCSI on the timesaving benefits of BIM
  • Remko van der Graaff FCSI on the real hospitality experience
  • Michael Meirer, head of consulting at Meiko Green, addressing anaerobic digestion: turn food waste into renewable energy and fertilizer
  • Robert J. C. Munday on paving the way to a modern, fully connected kitchen 
  • Roger Obeid FCSI on the inclusion of hearing impairment and motor disability into the hospitality industry
  • Food and beverage brand specialist Jon Sharp on hotel brand challenges and opportunities

There will be three rounds of master classes, giving everybody the chance to learn about a spread of topics throughout the afternoon.

After a hugely successful student competition in Rotterdam, the challenge returns in Chantilly, engaging teams of students who are tasked with developing a foodservice concept. It promises to be yet another fascinating competition as the teams will supply progress updates throughout the conference before giving a final presentation on Saturday. The entrants will be considered by a judging panel of FCSI consultants who will announce the winner during the Saturday evening events.

Hospitality at the center

The Hyatt Regency Chantilly, a short distance from Paris, makes the perfect venue for the conference, according to Dalhuisen. “It’s fantastic. It is a beautiful location and offers high-quality service,” she says.

Of course, a foodservice conference would not be right without top quality food and drink and great hospitality – throughout the 2022 conference in Chantilly, delegates will enjoy first rate catering, including a barbecue dinner – enjoyed after a Masterchef cook-off – and a dinner at the impressively beautiful Royaumont Abbey, a short distance from the conference venue.

As ever the FCSI EAME 2022 conference will offer ample opportunities to network and enjoy the company of valued friends and industry colleagues.

Tina Nielsen


As well as a live roundtable, masterclass sessions and fantastic networking opportunities, the FCSI EAME Conference 2022, features three leading keynote speakers. Find out more about them here

Christine Schäfer, MSc BA, researcher and speaker, GDI Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute

Christine Schäfer is a researcher and speaker at the GDI Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute, an independent think tank in consumption, economics and society in Switzerland. She analyzes social, economic and technological trends, with a focus on food, consumption and retail.

Schäfer studied business administration at the Universities of Bern and Valencia, with a focus on marketing and consumer behavior. Before joining GDI, she completed a trainee program at US pharmaceutical and consumer goods manufacturer Johnson & Johnson in Zug.

Key topics Schäfer addresses include: ‘Hacking Food: Redefining What We Eat’; ‘Eternity Now: Wellbeing and Beauty Retail Reimagined’; Global consumption protests: rebellion between hope and hype’; and ‘Care’.

When she’s not conducting research,Schäfer plays hockey for Luzerner Sportclub and carries out voluntary work.


Benjamin Calleja, founder and CEO, Livit Design

Benjamin Calleja is founder and CEO at Livit Design. Based in Madrid, Spain, Livit Design is the world’s leading F&B Strategic Brand Consultants and Restaurant Concept Design Company. Calleja is also founder of Livit’s very own test-lab restaurants 1889, Fast-Fine Pizza (Stockholm, Sweden) & V (Los Angeles, CA and Malmö, Sweden), part of the Fast Fine Restaurant Group. Fast Fine Restaurant Group is a disruptive lifestyle hospitality company with a growing portfolio of restaurants, marking the birth of Fast Fine, a new segment in the global F&B industry.

Livit help make brands more relevant, through trends, design, technology and much more, combining the best possible guest experience with operational efficiency and profitability. Livit has developed over 13,000 projects in the last 20 years. A new Livit designed restaurant opens every eight hours somewhere in the world.

Calleja “thrives on innovation, creativity and growth” and is a true entrepreneur with a global experience in managing different roles. Previously, he was founding partner of Passionality Group, a strategic consulting firm that cultivates concepts responsibly and profitably by providing specialized and relevant business expertise through advisory or consulting services and – where applicable – seed investments in exchange for compelling returns on invested capital.


Bruno Parmentier, lecturer, consultant and author of books about agriculture and world hunger

Bruno Parmentier graduated as a civil engineer from Des Mines De Paris in 1972, he also graduated from the EPHE (Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes) the same year. He was a special Advisor to the French Ministry of the Environment from 1972 to 1973, where he performed various rural and regional development missions in Mexico until 1977.

Parmentier was sales and mechanical manager in the department of LIP cooperative Besançon from 1978 to 1981. He went on to join Discovery editions, where he was the commercial and financial director until 1985 and CEO from 1996 to 1999. Prior to this Parmentier was business manager of the CNDP (National Center for Educational Documentation 1985-1987, 1994 – 1995) and the CFPJ (Centre for training and development of journalists 1987-1993). From 1999 to 2001, Parmentier was the CEO Editions du Cerf. His most recent book is ZERO HUNGER, End the hunger published in 2014.

Between 2002 and 2011 he headed the (Angers Graduate School of Agriculture) ESA group-oriented agriculture, food and rural development. This diverse course has allowed him to develop a unique perspective on the issues of agriculture and food in France and worldwide.

Currently, Bruno Parmentier devotes himself primarily to lectures and participates in panel discussions on the topics of agriculture and food.

Your day-by day schedule for the FCSI EAME 2022 Conference

Please click on the image below to enlarge it.

Carbon measurement will be a central part of the 2022 FCSI EAME conference, as Cameron Sharpe outlines

And so, we’re finally here. It feels like a lifetime since I first wrote to outline plans for a carbon measurement project as part of what was then the 2021 FCSI EAME Conference at the Hyatt Regency in Chantilly.

After the uncertainty of the last couple of years, the project has at times felt like a distant dream, but we have finally been in a position to revisit the project first begun in October 2020 with a view towards building a comprehensive picture of conference carbon output as we all come together this weekend.

The goal now, as then, is to provide a carbon emissions benchmark for this and other events in the FCSI universe – building in part on the legacy of Clara Ming Pi FFCSI and her work at the 2008 FCSI conference in Beijing – but also formalising a method and mindset for thinking about sustainable event delivery in the future. However, we still need some final help from members to make this project a true success.

Tracking data

We’ve worked closely with the team at Hyatt to make at-conference output and wastage trackable and accurate, but the great unknown is the impact each event delegate will have in travelling to Chantilly.

This is why we need you to provide as much information about your journey to and from the conference as possible – no detail or data point is too small.

Many of you have already contributed – thank you for all of the detail shared. For those of you yet to send in your plans,  three information capture forms have been produced to accommodate different languages (EnglishFrench and German).

Time is running short, so please do what you can to fill out your version as soon as possible. If there are any questions or if you believe that there are additional areas of output not covered in the form, please grab me over the next few days or drop me a line on email (

There will also be a Carbon Footprint stand situated in the Experience Centre, so please make sure to drop by and say hello.

Looking beyond 2022

That said, while there will be efforts in play to try and limit the amount of carbon output we’re responsible for at this year’s conference, this project is as much about measurement in this first instance – with the major goal being a reduction in the impact any FCSI conference might have in years to come.

Over the next few days, we’ll also reveal our plans to offset conference carbon output – introducing long-term initiatives to ensure that we’re positively compensating for what we’re emitting across the regions of the world in most need of it.

I’m really excited to see you all at Chantilly this week – drop by the Experience Centre when you get a chance.

Cameron Sharpe

Aside from zen rooms, sugar shacks, maple whisky and poutine, the FCSI The Americas 2022 Conference delivered exceptional insight – and great fun, reports Michael Jones

“What a beautiful and great city,” said FCSI The Americas Division (TAD) 2022 Conference chair Stephanie Gilbert of Montreal, Canada – the host city for the Division’s first in-person event since 2018. Hotel Bonaventure in downtown Montreal proved to be a superb venue – in a superb city – for a Conference themed ‘Together Again’, which reflected an event that was long-overdue and much-welcomed following the enforced delays of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Conference Planning Committee and TAD executive team, led by Wade Koehler, delivered an event for the 270 attendees across April 21-23 that was big on education and insight – with impressive speakers and pertinent breakouts – but also delivered plenty of fun via evening parties and networking sessions. There was even a ‘Zen Room’ for members to relax and chill out in during the Conference.

The food, unsurprisingly for a city boasting the highest number of restaurants per capita in Canada (and the second highest in North America after New York City), was exceptional throughout the event. Poutine and smoked meats were in abundance, while delicious maple whisky warmed up the attendees at the Friday night evening reception in the rustic and hospitable confines of the Sucrerie de la Montragne ‘sugar shack’.

The future of foodservice

For all that, it was the education and insight from the guest speakers and breakout session presenters that will live long in the memory. Keynote speaker Mike Lee of Alpha Food Labs set the tone on day one, with his presentation on The Future of Foodservice. “We explore and build the future of food. But the immediate, and what is on the horizon, are equally important,” he said.

“There is value in the experience of dreaming what the future might be. Better innovation in food today starts with ambition for tomorrow.” Suggesting food is a confluence of “logic and emotion”, Lee cited three core factors impacting the future of food: Comfort, Trust and Access.

For Lee, future trends can always be found on the periphery of the industry. “The breakthrough stuff is always on the edges. Look to the fringes, it’s where the interesting stuff is happening,” said Lee.

He ended his presentation with an analogy of how foodservice operators must not lose heart in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges presented by the pandemic and the labor crises it has escalated. The Japanese art of Kintsugi sees broken crockery/pottery repaired with liquid gold, creating beautiful results that are also stronger than the previous iteration. “Let’s start filling in the cracks with gold,” said Lee. “Let’s create the future together.”

Technology, trends and transparency

The Conference saw a series of outstanding breakout sessions. Day one saw consultant and operator speakers address subjects as diverse as ventless innovation, addressing KPIs, human resources and strategic planning, to automation and robotics, video marketing and sustainability. Day two focused on FCSI Revit standards, project management, the operator’s perspective, supply chain issues, joint ventures and designing for the customers’ and owners’ needs post-pandemic. 

Additional general sessions saw Joe Carbonara, editor in chiefFE&S Magazine chair a session on Our Industry: Looking Ahead with Ken Schwartz FCSI, Rob Connelly of Henny Penny (and NAFEM immediate past president), Kirby Mallon, president of CFESA and Tom Mitchell, President of MAFSI.

The session took in supply chain fragility, the push for greater onshore production, and the need for more transparency with customers.

“Covid has changed the dynamic of the industry,” said Schwartz. “For the last 30 years, the industry has been extremely competitive. But the paradigm has changed. It’s become a seller’s market. If someone doesn’t want to buy a piece of equipment, the guy immediately behind him will buy it.”

Filling in the cracks with gold

Comedian and life & career coach Jessica Holmes combined the funny with the deeply moving as she discussed her own battles with depression and addressed how we can all get a better handle on our mental health through a mix of her comedy and motivational speaking.

Conference closing keynote Peter Shankman, an entrepreneur, author and expert in social media, PR, marketing, advertising and the customer experience, focused on The five rules of the customer economy and how to stay ‘top-of-mind’ in every customer’s mind, from beginning to end. “‘How can I help you’ are the five most under-used words in the English dictionary,” said Shankman. “Reach out to your audience when you have nothing to sell. And be real – don’t automate it. This isn’t rocket science. The bar is so low in the customer experience, so just become brilliant at the basics.”

The FCSI TAD 2022 Conference was certainly brilliant at the basics – and the high level too. Filling members’ minds with the liquid gold of great insight and the simple joy of being ‘together again’ – so we can all come back stronger.

Conference Awards:

Innovation Showcase FCSI The Americas Product of the Year – Rational iVario-Pro

2022 Bob Pacifico Award – Dick Eisenbarth FCSI

Americas 2022 Service Award – John Radchenko FCSI

Rod Collins Allied Summit Award – Rob Geile, Ali Group

2020 Educational Provider – Electrolux

2021 Educational Provider – Ali Group

Special awards for William Caruso FFCSI (pictured, with FCSI Worldwide president Mario Sequeira FCSI) and Nick Vaccaro, Executive Administrator. FCSI Worldwide


Michael Jones

After an enforced break FCSI The Americas Division’s Biennial Conference is happening in Montreal, Canada, next week between April 21-23. Amelia Levin looks ahead to all the events and previews the highlights

Together again. Those are two timely words describing the theme for the 2022 FCSI The Americas Division Biennial Conference, scheduled for April 21-23, in food-centric Montreal, Canada.

The agenda promises a line-up of expert speakers and educational programming – but also plenty of fun and networking that we’ve missed as a result of the pandemic and cancelation of the 2021 NAFEM Show/TAD Symposium last summer.“The event presents an ideal opportunity to pause and reflect on how valuable great networking and peer-to-peer learning can be and how it benefits the consultant community,” says Wade Koehler, FCSI TAD executive director. “There’s an adage that ‘content is king,’ but right now, ‘contact is king.’ I feel that’s what we’re all craving and will be looking forward to in Montreal. It will be great to finally be together again.”Kicking off the two-day event, the opening party will be onsite at the hotel on the evening of Thursday, April 21, to allow plenty of time for reconnecting with friends and peers in a relaxed setting without interruption.

Keynote and sessions

Programming for Day 1 includes a presentation by keynote speaker Mike Lee, who will address The Future of Foodservice. In this session, Lee will examine the consumer behaviors and innovations that are shaping the future of food as well as their implications for foodservice businesses today and tomorrow. Lee will also explore a selection of the most salient trends that are shaping how foodservice producers and consumers will need to operate into the next decade.

Two other professional speakers will present during the general session. April Simpkins, chief human resources officer for Totalhr who was named one of Charlotte’s 50 Most Influential Women by a North Carolina news outlet, will present on HR challenges impacting us all during the ongoing pandemic.

To liven up the atmosphere, comedian and author Jessica Holmes will address an important issue affecting many of us during the ongoing pandemic – mental health challenges – but with a relatable spin and a few laughs meant to encourage and inspire us all to take care of ourselves and each other.

Also, during the general session, a panel featuring members of allied associations (NAFEM, MAFSI, CFESA and FCSI) will talk about how they envision the future of each group and how we can all work together.

Breakout sessions this year will touch on everything from automation and robots, the “new” sustainability, KPIs, ventless technology 101, new distribution channels, project management mastery, POS/mobile ordering, joint ventures for the future and designing for post- pandemic times.

There will also be two strategic planning workshops for attendees looking to develop their long-range business planning as well as a how-to session on video marketing solutions. To view the full agenda, visit home/conference-program.

Keynote speaker Peter Shankman will close out the educational programming with a session covering the Economy of the Next 50 Years. During this presentation, Shankman will discuss the five rules of the customer economy, why speed matters, how to stay “top-of-mind” in every type of customer’s mind, and how to connect with younger consumers from Generations Z and Alpha.

Debuting this year, a Revit Room will be staffed with volunteers during the entire conference to address questions or challenges working with the technology. Attendees are encouraged to bring their laptops into the room to meet with these Revit masters for their tips and tricks.

Don’t miss the annual Innovation Showcase, a collection of booths showcasing the top 10 products nominated by a panel of consultants and vying for the Product of the Year award. Their innovations will remain on display throughout the entire conference.

The team behind the scenes

The Conference Planning Committee (CPC) – which is comprised of FCSI Consultant and Allied members and consists of Stephanie Gilbert (Chair), Sojo Alex, Brett Daniel FCSI, Peg Galie FCSI, Eric Goodrich, Brent Hall FCSI, Kevin Kochman, Kathleen Held, Danielle Mason, Kyle Schwartz, Tara Schroeder FCSI, and Bernadette Ventura – worked closely with Wade Koehler’s team, to recruit and develop educational session speakers for the event.

The CPC’s aim is to stay ahead of trends in order for members to learn from each other, but also to have fun and enjoy creative sparks.

“Never has there been a more critical time for the specifying, design and manufacturing communities to learn, connect and share with one another,” says Stephanie Gilbert, executive vice president of corporate growth strategy at Food Service Holdings, the first-ever allied member to chair the committee. “Collaboration, strategy and alignment are going to be key in navigating our current climate, which presents us with equal parts unique challenges, coupled with unparalleled opportunity. At the 2022 FCSI Conference, we are going to address all this and more, in addition to having a phenomenal time. I couldn’t be more excited to engage with fellow Allied and Consultant attendees this April in Montreal.”

Penny Price, FCSI’s director of member services, says the consultant and Allied members on the CPC did a great job choosing topics that are most relevant to today’s foodservice consultant. “We rely heavily on our CPC team. As association executives, we know how to plan schedules, audio visual (AV) and evening events but the CPC members are instrumental in helping us choose the best educational sessions we can offer to cover current foodservice issues.

“Being immersed in the industry, they know what topics and trends are important to their peers. We ensure there’s something for everyone on the schedule so attendees will always see a good mix of topics that appeal to design consultants, MAS consultants, business owners and manufacturers,” she adds.

Koehler and his team also extend a huge thank you to this year’s sponsors, who were overwhelmingly generous with their support. “We are so fortunate to have the support we do from our Allied membership. It never goes unnoticed and is always much appreciated. We also know none of it would be possible without our amazing sponsors,” he says.

More socializing opportunities

Of course, nothing says an FCSI event like a chance to just have some good fun. “We love to throw a party and we understand how important networking is for all attendees, so we make sure to have a good mix of education during the day and fun evening events where attendees can catch up and reconnect,” says Price.

The second night activity will include a visit to a working maple syrup farm, or sugar shack, called Sucrerie De La Montagne, located amid a 120-acre forest atop Mont Rigaud, west of Montréal. There, conference attendees will get a momentary glimpse of life as it might have been for Québec and Canadian pioneers as father-son owners, Pierre and Stefan Faucher, share stories. The trip will also include a delicious and hearty meal fit for a lumberjack.

The final night’s festivities will be back at the hotel. At press time, details were still being worked out, but Koehler says: “We plan to throw a great ending party to celebrate being together again.”

“By the time the event rolls around, many of us will not have been to an in-person FCSI event in nearly four years,” says Price. “The Conference will be extra special this year because our members are so excited to see old friends, learn together and share ideas – live and in person – not on a video call or webinar. In my opinion networking, collaborating, and learning just aren’t the same when done virtually. We have been able to create and host some great programs during this challenging time – the BizEssentials webinar series, the On Tap video podcasts, and the virtual Happy Hours were all very well received and allowed us to provide members with excellent opportunities to learn and grow during a time when we couldn’t be together as we normally would. But there’s simply no way to replicate online the in-person experiences and energy that our members share when they attend an FCSI Conference, Symposium, or Chapter event,” she says.

“I am really looking forward to finally meeting the FCSI The Americas members who I have corresponded with for two years,” says Amy Stark, director of administration, FCSI The Americas. “Our committee put together a really interesting program and I look forward to learning more about the industry and its members. Plus, the opportunity to visit a city like Montreal makes a good event even better.”

Keeping Covid in mind

Price points out the lifelong friendships that have developed because of FCSI The Americas events. “One thing that continues to impress me is that FCSI members really enjoy spending time with each other and catching up at our events; I see real connections between our members that I don’t see at other industry events that I attend,” she says.

Eric Norman FCSI, vice president, Midwest for Clevenger Associates, and chair of The Americas Division, also highlights the chance to get back together with friends and colleagues. “So much has happened over the last two years with our conferences and events being cancelled regularly and we have not had a chance to gather with our FCSI friends and colleagues in quite a long time,” he says. “That opportunity to network and catch up with the FCSI membership may be the thing that I am most excited about for the Montreal Conference. Of course, there will also be the top-notch educational opportunities and sessions. These are great assets to learn and help us hone our skill set, which is really the most important thing about our conferences.”

Of course, safety will be top-of-mind for the FCSI planning team. “We will be in communication prior to the event with members in regard to Covid protocols and travel into Canada for those coming from the US,” says Koehler. “We will also be offering Covid testing on-site that will be free for attendees so they can test before they travel home per re-entry and air travel requirements. We continue to work closely with the Montreal tourism department to determine all of the necessary details and precautions to take and will share those as they become available.”

Until then, gear up and get ready for some top-quality, highly anticipated learning and good old FCSI fun.

Amelia Levin

Ahead of his opening keynote at the FCSI TAD 2022 conference, Mike Lee of Alpha Food Labs discusses what inspires his passion for innovation in foodservice and what he’ll be sharing with delegates

Mike Lee is the co-founder and CEO of Alpha Food Labs, a food innovation company that helps companies create strategies and products that are better for people, planet and palate. He is also the founder of The Future Market, a futurist food lab that explores what our food system could look like in the next 5 to 25 years. A frequent speaker on food innovation, he has worked with organizations such as CNBC, Bloomberg, The New York Times, The Culinary Institute of America and The National Restaurant Association. He also serves on the board of advisors for the Partnership for a Healthier America.

How were you first introduced to the foodservice industry?

I grew up in a multi-generational restaurant family. My grandfather opened a Chinese-American restaurant in Detroit in the mid 1940s and ever since then my parents, aunts and uncles all ran multiple restaurants in that area.

My grandfather immigrated to the US from Hong Kong and decided to settle in Detroit as opposed to areas with more well-populated Chinatowns like San Francisco or New York City. He wanted to go where there was less competition and more opportunity to be different.

It worked and their restaurant thrived for over 40 years. His decision to go to the less obvious place was a powerful lesson in my life and it has colored the way I look at innovation throughout my career.

What inspired you to start Alpha Food Labs?

I’ve worked in innovation and product development nearly my whole career, both in and outside of food. While I was working in tech shortly after college, I loved what I was able to create during my day job but still had a passion to do something in food.

I founded an underground supper club in New York City where I would produce and cook dinner events for anywhere from eight to 300 people.

This was not catering, it was more of a creative outlet for my team and me to develop a narrative and a new experience in our pop-up dinners that one couldn’t typically find at a restaurant.

The creative freedom was incredible and I started to combine the skills I learned in my innovation job by day with the experimental stuff we were doing with the supper club by night. Those formative years are how I got started in food and because I was able to do it in such an unorthodox way, it’s influenced the way I think about problems.

What will you be sharing with delegates as part of The Future of Food session?

I will be talking a lot about the mindset of the 21st century eater and the fragmentation of food tribes. There are a lot of different points of view and needs that you never had before, such as gluten free, vegan and sustainable-conscious consumers. So, we’ll look at how that’s changing and how the food industry has to react to keep up with and cater to those tribes.

Additionally, we’ll explore the persistent trends and behaviors that are sticking around post-Covid. After about a year where most of the world traded away out-of-home dining for in-home dining during the pandemic, that experience stands to change how people look at their food choices for years to come.

Why is it important for foodservice to pay attention to consumer trends?

It’s important because competition is heating up so much. We now have never ending choices at our fingertips – you can just pull out your phone app and have access to hundreds of different options. It’s about being able to reach and attract customers, because it’s become a lot harder to win over the consumer.

What do you think are the biggest drivers behind the push for healthier food? We’re living in the days of companies like Farmers Fridge, which is essentially a series of vending machines that sell fresh salads in jars. It’s a signal that this idea and assumption that you can only get fresh food in certain places is being proved wrong and that technological innovation is changing what food is available where. Demand for that kind of food is growing and it shows that people are beginning to expect a level of high-quality food everywhere not just in high-quality restaurants.

How can foodservice consultants stay on top of the trends expected to shape the future of food?

There’s no one size fits all formula. With all the different points of view, there are so many different ways to slice it. While one tribe might favor health and sustainability, there is still room for more indulgent offerings.

Find a tribe you can resonate with and engineer your operations so you’re able to cater for that market and scale up as you get success. Changing the way that you look at things will help you to become more effective and efficient.

How can operators engage with customers to better understand their needs?

One of the techniques we use to try out new concepts and ideas is to conduct pop-ups. With restaurants, pop-ups are not always something that get headlines but they give you the opportunity to test out new things – finding ways to create temporary venues can be key.

How you gain insight from that depends on the relationship you have with the customer. If you have a loyal following you can have a more real-time conversation. If it’s a more transactional audience you might have to rely on more transactional feedback. The value is in opening up the conversation.

How can foodservice consultants help prepare their clients to adapt to evolving customer expectations?

We place a lot of emphasis on parallel case studies from outside the category we’re working in. For a mass audience casual set up, we still look at fine dining and try to dissect the value and find insight for the category we’re in.

That doesn’t mean you use the same strategy, but sometimes you have to realize the best ideas might come from somewhere else. We see ourselves as translators, translating concepts from other categories that might work well and adapting them. Otherwise you run the risk of recycling the same old stuff and never doing anything new.

How do you go about developing an innovative strategy that works for your customers?

It’s important to take that attitude of test and learn, and to be empathetic. Listening to customers is a huge principle. Especially when we work with established companies with a track record in one area, but who are trying to be innovative. That’s harder because you have to take an attitude of self-disruption before someone else does it for you.

Take the dairy industry, for example, they didn’t look hard enough at the whole plant-based movement and they didn’t think about how to disrupt themselves, so someone came along and did it for them. That’s a difficult thing to do as a company because the attitude can seep in that “this is how we’ve always done it, it works and it makes money”.

But maybe the things that got you where you are won’t be the things to take you forward. If you can be open to that and ask yourselves the uncomfortable questions, like “how would I put myself out of business?”, you get breakthrough. It’s uncomfortable work but necessary for companies to survive.


Peter Shankman will be delivering the closing keynote speech at FCSI The Americas 2022 Conference, discussing how the customer experience will shape the economy of the next 50 years

What is the customer economy?

We’re in a space in a society where your network knows more and more about what you’re doing; the companies you interact with, the stores in which you shop. The premise is that if I have a great experience with a brand, that brand will show up more in my networks and the feeds of the people with whom I interact. We covet what we know.However, the bar is so ridiculously low in terms of any type of customer interaction that I don’t need to be brilliant to succeed, I don’t need to be over the top amazing, I just need to suck less than everybody else.What’s key is transparency. We screw up, we’re human beings. You’ll never see loyalty in your business if you don’t screw up and then fix the problem. Statistics show that customer loyalty is actually greater when a company fixes a problem, because the customer has had a positive interaction with you.

How can foodservice consultants better engage with their clients?

The best thing you can do is listen to your customers, they will tell you exactly what they want. Listen instead of talking, find out what they want, find out what they’re looking for. We spend so much time trying to sell to clients that we don’t necessarily listen to what they want. Reach out to the client when you don’t have anything to sell and just have a conversation with them, you’ll be amazed what they tell you. Just ask: “What are you working on and how can I help?”It doesn’t have to be difficult or a long process. We don’t do that enough.

How can the industry embrace this approach?

You don’t need to be awesome – slightly better is more than enough. But focus on it and try to improve. We tend to get into our comfort zone and stay there. Try to get out of it and work a little harder.The concepts of transparency, relevance and brevity can help grow your business. The key is that it needs to start at the top and work its way down.

About Peter Shankman:

Peter Shankman is an entrepreneur, author and expert in social media, PR, marketing, advertising and the customer experience. Born and raised in New York City, he has successfully launched and exited three start-ups. Shankman is the founder of The ShankMinds Breakthrough Network, an online network

of thought leaders, business experts and change makers, and host of the ADHD podcast Faster than Normal, which focuses on the gifts of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

His clients have included American Express, Sprint, The US Department of Defense, Snapple Beverage Group, NASA, Sheraton and Walt Disney World.


Top FCSI The Americas consultants and Phil Radford of Welbilt address the main drivers, consumer behaviors and innovations shaping the future of foodservice, and their implication on hospitality businesses tomorrow

On Monday April 11, 2022, leading FCSI The Americas consultants, plus Phil Radford, Senior Vice President, of Welbilt, Inc., met for a virtual FCSI roundtable to discuss the key challenges and trends set to impact on foodservice operators this decade.

From mega-trends such as automation and robotics, the future of delivery, sustainability and climate change, plant-based foods and the rise of ghost kitchens, the roundtable explored how the sector will change – and who is set to capitalise from that.

The ‘Future-tech’ series roundtable also addressed solutions for how to fix the labor crisis in foodservice.

Chaired by Michael Jones of FCSI’s Foodservice Consultant magazine, the roundtable saw leading consultants Rudy Miick FCSI, Founder/President, The Miick Companies LLC and Joseph Schumaker FCSI, CEO, FoodSpace, discuss the key challenges their clients continue to face in as they face the reality of the ‘new normal’.

The roundtable, sponsored by Welbilt Inc., also takes in the subject of connected kitchens and cloud-based solutions – a large pivot for restaurant owners – and the advantages of common controller strategies, plus how digital and cloud strategies are influencing operations.

You can watch the video of the roundtable below:


Further details:

Check out previous FCSI Future-tech roundtables, supported by Welbilt, Inc., on the electrification of commercial kitchens, here; the future of foodservice innovation, here; on technology and equipment innovation, here; on education foodservice, here; on B&I dining, here; healthcare dining, here; QSR, here; and sustainability, here.

To find out more about our sponsor Welbilt, Inc., please visit here.