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Part of the change: Laura Lentz FCSI on an evolving sector

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The Maryland-based design principal with Culinary Advisors shares her thoughts on keeping pace with rapid industry change and delivering for clients

Which way do we go George, which way do we go?

Just like the old Looney Tunes characters, today’s evolving foodservice world has many of us asking this question. I don’t know if I’m the only one, but even with 15 years of experience in consulting, I am finding myself challenged and asking questions about what I do and don’t know. The truth is that things are just changing at a rapid pace like we have never seen before. Here are my tips on how I’m thinking about my profession these days.

Trust your instincts

No matter whether you are new to this or you have been doing this for many years, you are likely to have innate instincts that make you good at this profession. Trust those instincts and don’t doubt yourself. We are all in this together, we all need to keep our finger on the pulse of changes. We also need to take heart that while things are changing at a great speed, they will calm down in time.

Learn, talk, seek

I have been working hard to stay informed with what is changing, following the trends and topics that have resulted from Covid-19, through project work, attending webinars and doing online research. I’d love to think that we could all talk with each other more often and lean on each other so that we can help our clients find the solutions they need. It’s imperative that we seek out ideas and hear what challenges other folks are dealing with. Even when it doesn’t relate to our exact experience and situation we can translate findings to all market segments.

Learn to say “I don’t know”

This is a time when things are changing so fast and keeping up as an expert is nearly impossible. For young consultants that I work with, I strongly recommend that trying to answer a client’s question with the wrong answer is worse than just saying you don’t know. It’s okay to say you don’t have the answer to a question. You can go back to the office (or home) and then take the time to do the research, talk to peers and colleagues and find real solutions for the client and before getting back to them. You still must do this in a timely fashion, but it is better than trying to be an expert and potentially providing bad advice. None of us wants to be in a position where we have advised people in the wrong direction.

I feel the pressure to be “in the know” like never before but I am trying to keep myself calm and aware. Never have I been more thoughtful about whether I know enough and what areas I need to expand my expertise into than I do today. Technology, automation and energy efficiency are just a few of the hot topics that I spend time to research and learn about every week. And even though there is more to learn than ever before, what a ride this is! Granted it has been at great expense, but my, how our industry is changed.

Someday, we will look back on this and say that we were a part of this change and hopefully we’ll have left our mark so that we can say ‘we helped make it better’.

Laura Lentz FCSI