Start your engines! FCSI The Americas’ 2019 Symposium promises fast-paced fun and some serious learning, reports Amelia Levin
Buckle up, ladies and gentlemen, FCSI The Americas 2019 Symposium, held on 5-6 February immediately prior to the bi-annual NAFEM Show in Orlando, Florida, plans to put consultant and Allied member attendees on the fast track toward the future.
With an ‘Accelerate’ themed program, this year’s fast-paced symposium takes a forward-looking approach with a lineup of educational sessions and speakers aimed at readying our group for what’s coming next.
“We started the first NAFEM-FCSI Symposium in 2015 in Anaheim and every year since they have grown bigger and, from what our members tell us, better,” says Wade Koehler CAE, executive director, FCSI The Americas.
“These Symposiums give consultant members not only a chance to get together and network during The NAFEM Show, but also the opportunity to learn from each other. Everyone is so busy right now that many members are partnering up and helping each other. This is a great event to strengthen existing connections and make new ones.”
Penny Price, FCSI The Americas’ director of member services, forecasts this NAFEM-FCSI Symposium to be one of the highest attended ever, with the strongest consultant to Allied member ratio to date. “The FCSI Symposium is always a well-attended event,” she says.
“We typically expect about 300 attendees and we are right on target this year. We are also pleased with a 1:1 ratio of consultants to Allied members.”
Adds Koehler: “The 50/50 split this year not only enables our consultant members to connect to more of their own peers, but it also helps the manufacturers, who want to talk to as many consultants as possible during these types of events.”
Drive for success
This year’s festivities will kick-off on Tuesday 5 February, with a fun-packed party (naturally, this is FCSI, after all) at Andretti Indoor Karting & Games. Matching the race car Symposium theme, attendees will get the chance to race 35-mile-per-hour karts (faster than your typical amusement go-kart ride) on one of the world’s longest go-kart racing tracks with some of the best elevation changes and turns you’ll see. Yes, helmets and even fire protection suits will be required and the karts come equipped with wrap-around padding. The facility also features virtual reality gaming as well as arcades, bowling alleys and two large bars. And there will even be a surprise guest appearance.
“I raced go-karts when I was younger on professional tracks and these Andretti tracks feel as close to that, if not faster,” says Koehler. “With the success of our party at SeaWorld Orlando during the last NAFEM, and the roller coaster, we really had to step it up this time, as we always try to do. It’s become more and more difficult to outdo ourselves every year, but that’s one of the more fun things about being an event coordinator.”
As with that Symposium party in 2017, this year FCSI members will have the entire Andretti facility to themselves. Koehler says he found Andretti, which opened in 2017, by researching other adventure-type facilities in the Orlando area without the hassle of having to walk through the parks.
In the morning, following a networking breakfast with opening comments, keynote speaker Sam Richter will kick off the full day of sessions, held at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. Richter, a technology guru, bestselling author and frequent speaker, says he’s particularly thrilled to address our crowd, as he knows that consultants strive to provide value to customers and wants to equip them with the best tools to do so.
That said, Richter, founder and CEO of SBR Worldwide, a sales intelligence company, will be offering Symposium attendees a free test run of his company’s proprietary search algorithm that he says compares to “an overlay of Google.” Using this program, sales professionals and consultants are able to enter keywords to drill down Google results in order to find key decision makers and lists, which is particularly useful for prospecting new clients and business opportunities – without seeming “like a stalker.”
“I am beyond excited that we were able to book Sam,” says Kimberly Kissel, FCSI’s director of education. “Not only will he share his proprietary search algorithms to uncover web secrets in the opening keynote, he is also our closing keynote, and he will show our members what others will see when they go searching for them. As part of this, he will discuss how our members can create a better profile for themselves and their firm.”
Koehler adds, “With so many consultants going after the same projects these days, there’s a greater need to really know your customer and learn what people can find out about you online in order to get a step up in the competition.”
An educational program
From succession planning to ‘technology in the fast lane’ to foodservice trends and much more, this year’s educational program promises to be even more “future-leaning ” than in years past. The timing is right; we’re at a crossroads in our industry, with new generation members bringing in fresh ideas and veterans banding together to become more successful as the consultant community faces increasing time and workload pressures.
“Building onto the theme for the opening party, you have to be moving forward fast right now to keep up with this rapidly changing industry,” Koehler says. “Not only is everything changing rapidly, but also deadlines and lead times are quicker.”
The educational component of the FCSI Symposium, which offers five continuing education units (CEUs) for consultant members, was put together with a lot of hard work and diligent planning by the conference committee, chaired by Brett Daniel FCSI, of Camacho Associates.
“A lot of our sessions this year revolve around expanding horizons and pushing yourself forward,” says Daniel, who had to “break out of his own shell” when it came to serving as conference chair and speaking in front of the group.“There are many great ideas out there, and if you weren’t already thinking about them, these sessions will give you the chance to do so and perhaps figure out ways to implement them into your business,” he says.
Even the timing for each of the sessions was well thought out, with considerations given to how to energize attendees after lunch and how to stagger types of sessions so attendees can attend the concurrent breakout sessions they really want to attend. The ‘Building your pit crew – racing for the client’ panel discussion will feature a design consultant, management advisory services (MAS) consultant, operator and architect to home in on how to work together to navigate the minefields of diverse opinions and achieve the ultimate goal for the end-user.
Succession planning, always a crucial element of any strategic plan, is becoming even more important to firms these days as they usher in new generation team members. Kathleen Held, CPSM, of Cini-Little International will present, along with Katie Petrovich, CPSM of KP Enterprises and Sharyn Yorio, FSMPS, CPSM, VJ Associates. “Succession planning continues to be a hot button in our industry, especially as more consultants merge or partner up,” says Koehler.
“This is something, particularly for our veteran members, that if you’re not already thinking about it, now is the time to do so.” After much demand, Ken Schwartz FCSI, returns to present this NAFEM year following a wildly popular session during NAFEM 2015. If you enjoyed ‘Thinking outside the kitchen’ with Schwartz at the FCSI Symposium that year, you’ll enjoy this latest session ‘Smoke your competition – thinking outside the kitchen 2.0’.
“Ken will be introducing new ideas and addressing what Generation Z and younger diners are looking for and how to propose, design and win acceptance of these visionary ideas,” says Koehler. Along those lines, Meghan Grace, a prolific speaker and author on the topic of catering to Gen Zers, will be talking about the dining and food preferences for this up-and-coming consumer base, which has a unique perspective on the interaction between technology, communication and hospitality. Grace will also discuss the previous generations and how they connect with this next- generation foodservice consumer.
Joseph Schumaker FCSI, founder of foodspace+co, will continue the conversation about the future of food with a session that introduces some top food trends changing our industry, from plant-based cultured meat to “flexitarianism,” “snackification” and more. Schumaker plans to take a look at modern-day food system challenges and talk about how consultants can build spaces to meet these changes
Coupled with the future of food, FCSI associate Jay Bandy of Goliath Consulting Group will discuss the future of foodservice technology. He will introduce attendees to new technologies in the kitchen that are changing rapidly to improve safety, efficiency, and overall profitability, from Bluetooth temperature sensors to burger-flipping robots, cutting-edge apps and more.
Speaking of modern foodservice equipment, David Zabrowski of PG&E’s Food Service Technology Center will discuss the changing nature of ventilation in commercial kitchens. “More people are talking about hoods these days, but more along the lines of how they can help improve energy efficiency and making kitchens more comfortable for kitchen staff,” says Koehler.
As Revit continues to rev up, Jennifer Murphy FCSI, of Camacho Associates, Chris Huebner, of Kitchautomation, LLC., and FCSI associate Tim McDougald of Clevenger Associates will talk about how to ‘Rev up your engines’ with some not-to-be-missed tips and tools to help consultants take the lead in this expanding design platform.
And last on the list of programs, but certainly not of least importance, the ‘If you ain’t first, you’re last – be fearful of mediocrity’ session led by Chris Tripoli FCSI, of A’La Carte Foodservice Consulting Group. He will talk to attendees about how to go beyond idling in neutral, or getting lapped, to explore visionary food concepts that are using the latest trends to avoid mediocrity in terms of the three Ms: menu, management and marketing. Everything from improving communication to staff training, product handling and operational efficiencies will be discussed in this session perfect for MAS consultants but also just as useful for designers and Allied members.
Network and chill
Sprinkled in between the sessions, networking breaks will allow attendees more opportunities to catch up, reconnect with old friends and perhaps make new ones. Throughout the event, marketing coordinator Sydney Foster will be posting to social media accounts to cover all the action. Members are encouraged to use the new hashtag, #acceleratefcsi to take part in the ongoing conversation.
Following Richter’s closing keynote, attendees will break and move onto the NAFEM opening party, held 5:30pm – 7:30pm at the Hyatt Regency Orlando. Price says she’s particularly thrilled to watch people reconnect with each other at these events.
“I love that FCSI brings people together and provides opportunities for industry peers to create meaningful relationships that not only help them in their professional lives, but also allows them to establish friendships that last a lifetime,” she says.