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To focus on the foodservice industry and share our experiences of this past, challenging year, the best way to accomplish this is through a focus group

2020 has finally passed into history, however we still have Covid-19 variances, some which seem to be more dangerous than the original virus. We must remain vigilant and alert to these new conditions. The important question is: “What have we learned during the past year of adjustments in operations, restrictions, and with greater emphasis on sanitation and hygiene practices?”

A good place to start would to be drop the phase “we used to do it this way” as we cannot use the old ways anymore. We must focus on the foodservice industry as a whole and how we mesh, depend on each others’ skills, knowledge and shared experiences, especially what worked well during the pandemic.

The best way to accomplish this is through a focus group, with the goal of revamping the old way into a workable way to meet the needs of the organization. To begin, appoint a focus group with a leader leader who has the most experience and who can work well with a group who understands and can contribute to the purpose and the scope of the project of the meetings and expectations, improvements and plans on how to accept change.

Full representation

A focus group discussion is held to focus on defining, answering, planning and implementing an idea or a change or program without interruptions. A type of meeting that is focused on one topic where key personnel would brainstorm ideas on the topic. This group could include personnel at all levels of the organization, representatives from companies you do business with and any others who could provide input such as safety and sanitation, human resources, and – if your operation is surveyed by local, state, federal inspectors – someone who has knowledge of the regulations.

An agenda and a reorder is a must. An introductions of each member will provide an understanding of each person’s position and what they can share with the group. The focus must be kept in mind at all times as there may be many side issues that may arise. Recording all ideas or suggestions help keep in mind what is the focus.

Ground rule for the meeting(s) include:

  1. A set time and place for the meetings; a process to notify an absence
  2. No phones
  3. Be prepared
  4. Complete assignments, share responsibilities
  5. Courtesy by active listening; one speaker at a time; confidentiality focus on discussion
  6. Respect the decision (majority vote)
  7. Documentation; format for agenda; minutes; questions; assignments
  8. Share progress, difficulty and disagreements
  9. Meet in a room with tables, good lighting, no outside stimulus, breaks, location for rest rooms and refreshments (will a meal be provided?)

When the meeting ends, summarize the outcome, assignments, date and time of next meeting and if there is a need for all the group members to attend the meeting. If a small group and or individuals have been given an assignment, a status email update will need to be sent to all the members. Communications is important and to not welcome any suggestions or questions is, frankly, stupid. And remember: thank everyone for coming and for their participation.

Ruby Parker Puckett MA, FFCSI FAND