Judges confirmed for FCSI’s 2019 Start Me Up Innovation Awards

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The awards, supported by Electrolux Professional, will celebrate game-changing new products for commercial foodservice, beverage and laundry from start-ups

The panel of consultant judges for FCSI’s 2019 Start Me Up Innovation Awards, supported by Electrolux Professional, has been confirmed.

The FCSI Professional member judges on the Awards panel are: Ken Schwartz FCSI of SSA Restaurant Design + Foodservice Consulting in Tampa, Florida; Joseph Schumaker FCSI of SCG FoodSpace in San Jose, California; Brandon Kua FCSI of Citrus Consult in Selangor, Malaysia; Bettina von Massenbach FCSI of Oyster Hospitality Management in Munich, Germany; Thomas Mertens FCSI of S.A:M GmbH in Kolbermoor, Germany; and Michele Cadamuro, design director of Electrolux Professional in Pordenone, Italy (pictured). 

Game-changing impact

The inaugural 2019 Start Me Up Innovation Awards were established by FCSI and Electrolux Professional in order to give a platform to new products, services, systems or concepts from global start-up businesses with the potential to have a significant, game-changing impact on the commercial foodservice, beverage and laundry industry.

The awards, launched on 16 May 2019, are open to any independent, start-up business that has launched a new product or concept for the sector since 1 January 2018. It is free of charge to enter the awards and takes approximately 10 minutes to complete the application form on the FCSI website, here. The final date of entry for the awards is 1 September 2019.

The judges will decide on a shortlist of entrants based on how innovative and impactful they believe the entries could be for the industry.  The shortlisted products or concepts selected for the final stage will have the chance to make a Dragons’ Den/Shark Tank-style ‘pitch’ to the judges in person at an event at the FCSI booth on Sunday 20 October at the HostMilano 2019 show in Milan, Italy. Representatives from each start-up business will get 10 minutes to demonstrate to judges why their entry is worthy of first place. The winner will be announced at the FCSI show party later that evening.

A catalyst for creativity

“Innovation is essential for creating solutions to overcome new or existing challenges. It is vital in the development of efficiency at all levels, which impact the operators’ bottom line as well as the guest experience,” says Schwartz.

“These awards and the recognition they provide are a catalyst to entice people to be creative and to think outside of the norm. Start-ups typically take on a new approach.”

That view is echoed by Schumaker. “We must push innovation forward and recognise those that are driving the industry forward. Start-ups are lean, agile and bring new ideas and perspective to an old and slow-moving industry,” he says.

For Schumaker, innovation is essential to this industry, because consumers “demand innovation in food”. He believes that, because the habits of those consumers are changing alongside seismic population growth, the imperative to embrace change has never been greater. “Our post WWII food system is fractured and crumbling. There will be more than 10 billion people on this planet in our lifetime. Innovation is the only way to survive,” he says.

“Start-ups innovate, speculate and bring new life as well as passion to what is a very traditional and big business-based industry. They can innovate faster, cheaper and with better results.”

According to Mertens, the benefits to embracing innovation in this sector are abundantly clear. “By looking beyond the rim of our plate we shed light on all categories from every perspective. We develop, together with other experts from various industries, an understanding for a new gastronomically oriented view of our market. In this way we become a sustainable part of our community and support collaborative work on an international scale,” he says.

“We have to look much more at what new people can bring to our concepts and plans. If we do this from the first impulse of innovation, we have the chance to realise great things.”

For Mertens, start-ups are an essential lifeblood to the foodservice industry, because their pioneering approach can turn ideas into reality and expand our world view. “Confucius said: ‘Explain to me and I forget. Show me, and I remember. Let me do it, and I understand.’ This is more pertinent than ever for our industry – to understand ideas and then transform them. Start-ups explain our world to us and broaden our understanding.”

Further details:

The 2019 Start Me Up Innovation awards can be entered here.

For more information on the awards please contact

Keep up to date with the awards campaign on the FCSI website and via FCSI and Electrolux Professional’s social media channels by following the hashtag #SMUAwards19.

Michael Jones