Review: The NAFEM Show ’23 and FCSI TAD Symposium

It’s been three years since The NAFEM Show and FCSI TAD Symposium took place. With both events bursting with insight and fun, it was worth the wait, reports Michael Jones

Immediately preceding The NAFEM Show 2023 – the first full-scale iteration to be held since 2019 – the FCSI The Americas Division (TAD) Symposium took place in Orlando, Florida, on January 30-31. Oriented by a theme of ‘Level up’, the Symposium saw a plethora of expert keynotes, Professional member consultants and operators address pressing industry challenges and opportunities, advising the 350+ attendees how to gain a competitive advantage and take their business to the next level.

As always, the Symposium was flawlessly executed by FCSI TAD’s executive director Wade Koehler and his colleagues Penny Price and Aaron McEvoy. The tone was set at the opening party at SeaWorld Orlando on Monday January 30, where Professional and Allied FCSI members mingled, networked and enjoyed delicious food, all set to a soundtrack of joyous/petrified screams emanating from attendees on the neighboring Ice Breaker roller coaster.

Elevating the game

The program at Tuesday’s Symposium, held at the Orange County Convention Center, captured an exacting mix of the educational, the insightful and the inspiring. Conference Chair, Tarah Schroeder FCSI, established a fun and welcoming flavor from the off.

Conference chair Tarah Schroeder FCSI

FCSI Educational Foundation board members Garrett Lennon FCSI and president Jay Bravinder of Champion Industries, gave an update on recent EF initiatives, including the Foundation’s partnering with Western Kentucky University (WKU) to create an academic certificate program focusing on the field of foodservice consulting. “We’re helping a dream become a reality,” said Lennon.

Ali Group’s Rob Geile, winner of the 2021 Rod Collins Impact Award, presented this year’s award to Jack Scott, who recently retired from Alto-Shaam, for his outstanding work in “giving back, mentoring and contributing” to the industry. “I am humbled, honored and very grateful,” said an emotional Scott.

FCSI Worldwide president Mario Sequeira gave an address on recent and forthcoming global activity across the Society, including the FCSI Asia Pacific Conference in Western Australia on 13-17 November 2023, which will address ‘The Business of Foodservice Consulting”. “The only way to predict the future is to build it,” said Sequeira, summing up the future-facing positivity that summed up the entire Symposium.

Keynote speaker Ken Gronbach, a demographer and author who presented at the 2017 Symposium delivered a thought-provoking opening presentation that showcased how “demography is destiny”, while motivational speaker and positive mindset guru Jason Wange gave a heartfelt closing keynote speech on the subject of ‘Positivity, Authenticity and the Power of Story’.

Breakout – pull ahead

Sandwiching these, a series of excellent breakout sessions took place. While not at all comprehensive, selected highlights the Foodservice Consultant team captured are below.

In the session ‘Finding the lost Dollars and Increasing Profits’, June R. Jewell, CPA, a business management expert and the author of several books, including Find the Lost Dollars: 6 Steps to Increase Profits in Architecture, Engineering and Environmental Firms, shared her tips on maximizing profits and efficiently managing workflows.

“Every time you write off a cost that you can’t identify you lose money,” she said.

As Jewell outlined the areas that many don’t pay enough attention to, she addressed points including writing proposals, estimating the cost of a project, prevention of scope creep, and management of invoicing cycles. “You don’t make money until someone pays you,” she said.

In The Future Farmer session chef Chris Aquilino talked about the role regenerative farming has to play in foodservice. Practices including the effort to increase biodiversity, rotating crops, minimizing chemical inputs and integrating livestock form part of a bigger picture that is being painted by farmers and food companies who embrace regenerative farming.

99.5% of farms in the US use the land as a tool to a means. Regenerative farming, said Aquilino, is the combination of indigenous knowledge and science and technology.”

“What have chefs got to do with regenerative farming?” he asked. “We have a lot of influence on the food that is served, the ingredients used in different venues. We care about the world and the environment and we can affect change,” he said.

Jan van den Kieboom of Workshop Architects and consultant Sojo Alex of Envision Strategies discussed their pioneering work in food and safety, social connection and diversity and inclusion at one of the US’s most diverse college campuses, the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV). For the students who have benefited from this project ” a deep sense of belonging could not be more powerful. The role of foodservice is so elevated,” said van den Kieboom.

An operator-focused breakout session saw Dustin Cutler, executive director of Dining at Cornell University; Phil Del Guidice, Oak View Group’s vice president of operational excellence; and Eric Eisenberg, director of dining Services at Rogue Valley Manor; debate ‘Labor, Trends and Tech’, moderated expertly by Joe Carbonara of Foodservice Equipment & Supplies. “Our goal is to be a positive disruption in the business,” said Del Guidice, neatly summing up the overall sentiment.

The Get Your Head in the Game breakout session saw Joe Schumaker FCSI, Andrey Teleguz FCSI, FCSI Associate Chris Pick and Daniel Levinson demonstrate cutting-edge Virtual Reality (VR) tools – both software and hardware – that consultants can use internally and with clients. “VR helps reduce many rounds of revisions” on designs, said Levinson.

On with the show

The NAFEM Show 2023 saw Sequeira and FCSI TAD chair Christine Guyott FCSI awarded by NAFEM for their ‘Exemplary contributions to the foodservice industry’. And exemplary proved to be a key word for a show that did an outstanding job of highlighting new innovation and education via its @CenterStage theater and continues to set standards for how to showcase thought-leaders and cutting-edge new products to help a beleaguered – but endlessly adaptive and resilient sector.

Recipients of NAFEM’s 2023 Honorary Doctorate Award for their “exemplary contributions to the foodservice industry”

At the Show, the Foodservice Consultant team hosted a series of recorded consultant-led panel sessions, supported by Welbilt, Middleby, Pentair and Spring USA respectively. Edited video highlights of each session, which also featured experts from Aramark, EPRI and US Air Force, will air on this website over the forthcoming weeks.

FCSI Worldwide president Mario Sequeira FCSI with Foodservice Consultant’s Michael Jones

Video interviews with Seqeuira, Middleby’s Meghan Daro, Ali Group’s Rob Geile and GlobalData’s Mark Dempsey – attending NAFEM for the first time – were also recorded.

Additional reporting by Tina Nielsen

More Relevant

View More