The 2015 FCSI Symposium: Collaboration, insight and lip-syncing contests

Held prior to The NAFEM Show, the 2015 FCSI Symposium served up an eclectic mix of keynotes and breakout sessions, reports Michael Jones

The 2015 FCSI Symposium was held in at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California, on 18 February, the day before The 2015 NAFEM Show officially opened to attendees. This year’s event was structured around the theme of collaboration, with a number of breakout sessions focused on collaborative working between professional members and a number of networking breaks aimed at getting attendees to share their experiences, successes and war stories.

Symposium chair Kristin Sedej FCSI kicked off proceedings by praising the “incredible turnout” at the event, citing attendance from 160 design and management consultants and a further 135 FCSI Allied members. The event represented the first time in many years that professional member attendance outnumbered that of Allieds, while FCSI Americas professional membership has also grown for the third year running, said Bill Taunton, chair of the division

The opening keynote address from chef Brad Barnes CMC of The Culinary Institute of America, discussed the topic of ‘Culinary trends and emerging initiatives in foodservice consulting’. “Nothing will continue to function the way we used to do it. The old ways won’t work,” said Barnes. “Quality x craft = value. Trust, admiration and value are critical. Menu evolution is changing deeply and holistically.”

Barnes also called upon consultants to advise operators to focus on creating “a sensory experience” for diners while also stressing that “emotional connections” with food are important because they “create genuine trust” with consumers. In terms of kitchen design he highlighted the need to move away from workspaces that are “confined, hot, clumsy, static, uncomfortable, uninteresting, taxing and sterile.”

Excellent breakout sessions followed from Brad Wilson of PSMJ on ‘ownership and leadership transition’ and John Cornyn FCSI and Todd Guyette FCSI on ‘the value of pre-design planning and MAS and design collaboration’. “Foodservice consulting is not a perfect science. It’s an evolving science,” said Cornyn. “We have a professional obligation to know what we know, but to acknowledge what we don’t know too.”

Further insightful sessions followed from Doug Huber FCSI, Amy Hegarty FCSI, Stephanie Ward, Stephanie Gatewood and Larry Huber FCSI, discussing the subject ‘Out of the cube and into the cloud!’ Ken Schwartz FCSI addressed the topic of ‘Thinking outside the kitchen’ in his breakout session. “We need to look at how to create value for our clients,” said Schwartz, who showcased the theatre of “fire and movement” he likes to bring to the projects he works on, including the San Francisco 49ers Levi’s Stadium. “Operators are tired of the same old stuff, so work out how to create more value for them.”

A roundtable panel session moderated by Food Equipment & Supplies editor Joe Carbonara and introduced by Ray Schmidt of Halton Americas looked at how ‘Collaboration breeds success’. Experienced consultants Ray Soucie FCSI, Tim Stafford FCSI and Char Norton FFCSI discussed how they worked collaboratively on the foodservice design and MAS consulting at Salem Hospital, one of Oregon’s largest healthcare facilities.

The key lessons learned from working collaboratively were, said the panel, presenting yourself as a team at all times, and ‘over communicating’ so that everyone knows everything at any given time throughout a project. “It’s fun to be able to work together,” said Soucie. “The egos get put on the shelf and we ended up with a better design because of it.”

A high-octane closing keynote from US Marine Corps Instructor Pilot Patrick ‘Lips’ Houlahan of military training specialist Afterburner entitled ‘Plan, brief, execute, debrief = win’ was a fitting end to a symposium bursting with energy and good ideas.

Michael Jones

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