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Be the Voice: Laura Lentz on doing your best work

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The Maryland-based principal with Culinary Advisors outlines her thoughts on how foodservice consultants can keep on track and do good work for clients at a time of rapid change

I’m just back from being one of the faculty on the Foodservice Design Bootcamp and one of the things that struck me the most is how important we are as consultants to be the voice of our chefs and operators.

At a time when so many things are changing and a multitude of challenges are making projects more difficult (budgets, supply chain, environment, etc) it is even more critical that we stand by our promises to provide designs that work and make the best operations design we can.

I realize that even for us right now creating the perfect design is a bit of a moving target.  I’ve been in the industry for 16 years and I’m having trouble keeping up with all the new things and learning all that there is to learn; post-pandemic.

We are finally starting to see some good data coming out and we can see what works and what doesn’t. For example, some information shows that customers have significantly less tolerance for waiting, we all know that operations are struggling with labor, participation is showing that for some clients the peak meal period sizing is seeing bigger peaks and larger ‘valleys’ are created in the slower periods. But with all that is changing, don’t lose sight of the reason why you are here – the chef on the line who needs an efficient design to be successful.

What will remain the same this this period of intense change is our value to our clients and our ability to provide the best information we can to help them get the best results. So how can you do this?

Tracking media stories

I’ve been trying to take a the time every morning to read a few articles, (online and in print), blogs, trend–watchers to get my creative juices flowing. Full disclosure: I’m a morning person but whatever works for you; dedicate time to stay on top of what’s changing in the design world.

Trade shows and conferences

This may be a luxury that some are not able to experience but getting to trade shows and conferences is a great way to network and hear directly from people what they are experiencing.  This has been invaluable for me and even if you can only attend local events, do what you can do.

Think outside the box

I am finding that the same old things I used to just aren’t working the same as they used to. I’ve always been one to work to help my clients think outside the box, but now it’s more important than ever. Sometimes I’m even pulling ideas from other market segments but challenging our clients has always been a part of our work and now it’s almost essential. We have to help our clients see and understand how foodservice has changed and that it is different than they remember it pre-pandemic.

You do you

Do what you need to do to feel like you have provided the best solution for your clients.  Sometimes I’m doing walking time studies, sometimes queuing diagrams, and we are definitely doing more modeling and client walk-throughs than in the past. Whatever the solution is for you, it’s important for each of us to have a confidence in our design.

Now more than ever our clients are faced with many more constraints. Many of them are feeling forced to turn to resources outside of the normal processes we are used to. It is even more important that we all continue to strive for the best. Collectively, we are a wealth of knowledge and we will get to the new normal with the best responses to be the voice of our industry and the chef’s and foodservice individuals that we represent.

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