To market, to market: Laura Lentz FCSI on working in multiple markets

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The Maryland-based principal with Culinary Advisors outlines the benefits of multi-segment diversification in foodservice consulting

Some consultants primarily work in one market segment while others diversify into multiple market segments. Deciding which path is best for your company is an important part of what we do, and it is an important choice for any consultant to make as they build a business. My professional brand has been built on working in multiple market segments and this choice has given me a lot to consider, especially when the economy is in fluctuation. I have chosen a path of multi-segment diversification and here’s why:

My career started in 2006 just before the financial collapse of 2008. It was difficult not to worry about business levels and how much work we had in house during that time. I don’t intend to make a statement about the economy and the current economic climate, but I am sure many folks who were in the industry at that time may have similar recollections. I was fortunate to be at a company that was involved in many different market segments.

The case for diversification

Over the years I have found as a strength that when one segment declined another market segment would surge. I think this is one of the strongest arguments for multi-segment diversification. Another key strength to diversification is being able to use what I learned from one market segment to apply it to another. Some might say I’ve even dragged an idea or two. An example of this, is a project where I took a cooking suite which has long been popular in hospitality and placed it in a workplace servery. This works when our clients (employers) are looking for an environment that promotes a more hospitable, restaurant like feel.

This is maybe one of the riskier types of applications where multi-segment diversification requires an experienced consultant but if you find a great solution for a client, it can be a ton of new fun.

Finally, strength is more a reality: we work in a profession where the customers age from one market segment to another. By this I mean that the customers in a K-12 design, become the customers in higher education, become the customers in workplace and healthcare…you get the drift. We clearly see trends that are popular in higher education becoming more and more popular in workplace because the students who attended colleges and universities are now the employees we design for in workplace spaces. One of the most prominent examples of this is trayless serveries which started in higher education, migrated into workplace and are now pretty much a standard design in our firm.

Leaving a mark

These are just my thoughts and experiences, each of us must carve the path that suits us and our professional style. As designers and part of a design team, it is our reputation and design that we are leaving as a mark on an establishment.  Particularly in uncertain times, I do reflect on my craft and the company that I am part owner and how we are perceived by others, especially our clients. I’m grateful and proud of my company, Culinary Advisors, and all that we stand for as a group of consultants and I am going to make sure I do my best to provide the best design I can for my clients.

Hopefully what you really hear in my ‘voice’ is how exciting our world of foodservice consulting can be and how even after 15 years of experience, I still learn something new every day and still love what I do. Enjoy the ride.

Laura Lentz FCSI is design principal with Culinary Advisors in Maryland and a Foodservice Consultant columnist