2021: A look to the horizon

After “a year like no other,” we caught up with FCSI Americas' Wade Koehler and NAFEM's Charlie Souhrada on what to expect in the New Year

Fortunately, a recent survey of FCSI The Americas members shows that the consulting industry continues to remain on solid ground, even if projects went through a temporary slow-down during the height of quarantines last spring and summer, says executive director Wade Koehler CAE.

FCSI The Americas Board Chair Eric Norman FCSI shared the results during the Allied Association webinar with NAFEM, CFESA, MAFSI and FEDA earlier this month.

According to the survey, nearly 73% of members said they’re still responding to at least one to three proposals each week, but less than a quarter said they respond to four to six, and less than 10% said more than six. About 40% of members said they have seen an increase in proposals, closely followed by about 35% who said that number has “remained the same.” About 20% said the number of proposals they see has declined.

Diversifying the work

Koehler (pictured) said that while typically consultants get hit hard during a recession on the late end, after their clients feel the burn, this economic downturn is different than the recession of 2008 and 2009 for a couple reasons; it’s driven by public health, not financial issues, and most consultants have “diversified” their work between different segments over the last decade in order to prevent total fallout if one or even a few segments suffer at a time.

“Unless you specialize only in a certain segment that’s hurting right now, such as restaurants, you’re probably not struggling as much, although even healthcare went through a lull, though members tell us that that’s now rebounded,” he says.

Speaking of segments, according to the survey, 40% of members believe that ghost kitchens will look “excellent” in the six to 12 months, beating out even hospitals (21% said “excellent” for those, with 47% saying “good”).

Just over half, at 51% believe the status of nursing homes/independent/assisted living centers during that timeframe looks “good,” with 19% listing it as “excellent.” Interestingly, 53% believe military also looks good, followed by government institutions (44%) and pre K-12 (39%).

The segments expected by members to fare the worst included amusement parks (80%); health clubs (67%); convention and conference centers (63%); stadiums (53%); travel (52%); casinos (48%); and corporate dining (45%). Those that fell into the “fair” category included prisons (52%); cultural institutions (50%); fast casual restaurants (44%); government institutions (44%); bars (44%); colleges (43%); full service restaurants (40%); and hotels/resorts (39%).

Turnaround times to speed up

As far as design changes, Koehler said he doesn’t expect much to change. “At this point, most consultants are very well-versed in Covid-19 protocol, and there have been more questions about air handling and anti-microbials, but what consultants tell us is changing are quicker turnaround times.”

Regarding 2021 education and events, Koehler’s team, in conjunction with branding agency Fuze and beginning in January, plans to release a weekly video podcast each week on the FCSI YouTube channel. The podcasts will feature fun and casual interviews with FCSI members about their lives and careers. The association will continue to offer its bi-monthly webinars on the second and last Wednesday of the month.

When it is safe to gather, ideally as planned at the FCSI Symposium during the NAFEM Show in Orlando in August, Koehler says he plans to just “stay out of the way” and let everyone reunite without over-scheduling any additional fireworks. “Everyone misses each other and it will be exciting to reconnect again.”


The view from NAFEM:

Charlie Souhrada, vice president, regulatory and technical affairs for NAFEM, also shared his predictions for what 2021 holds in terms of the foodservice equipment industry. Here are his thoughts in his own words, as told to Amelia Levin:

“President-elect Biden’s win puts energy and the environment center stage. It brings new life into climate change and clean energy policy but achieving the most ambitious planks of his platform hinges upon which political party controls the U.S. Senate next year. The president-elect has called climate change an urgent crisis which leads us to expect his administration will follow an aggressive agenda which co-mingles the energy and environmental issues that NAFEM watches.

This means the industry needs to saddle up, be ready for action and ready for change. Ironically, this aggressive agenda could lead to a more stable regulatory environment by bridging the gap between federal and state standards. For example, it could ease the regulatory game of “whack a mole” we’ve experienced over the past few years as many states worked to establish their own, individual HFC standards which complicate matters for the industry’s cold side. Instead, predictable standards could lead to growth in research and development of new appliances because the industry will know what’s expected and can move toward those clear targets.

On the ‘Hot side’, the Biden Administration is expected to bring the US back into global environmental conversations, specifically the Kigali Amendment of the Montreal Protocol, and he’s made no bones about pursuing clean energy, which means greater scrutiny and limits on fossil fuels and what’s coming out of the stack.

This approach is not going to be easy and it will require a significant amount of work. On the plus side, however, the benefits could be incentive-based/technology-focused solutions that could be beneficial in the long run.

No matter what, we’re excited about the renewal opportunities 2021 will bring and we’re eager to see the industry come together for the first time in a long time at The NAFEM Show, August 26-28, 2021, in Orlando.”

Amelia Levin



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