One attribute that makes the foodservice industry so unique is that it plays host to a variety of philosophies.

Take, for example, the age-old foodservice design debate of which comes first: the menu or concept development? Some purists will always say the menu comes first. Does that mean you build a concept around the menu? Or does the concept come first? Is it important to decide the type of experience the customer will have before deciding the scope of the menu? Or maybe neither the menu nor the concept comes first. For many, the decision is not as clear-cut as one might think.

To help revive this debate, we asked a trio of highly accomplished foodservice professionals to weigh in with their perspectives. As one might imagine, the operator has one perspective and the management advisory services consultant another. What was the design consultant’s take? Well, turn Caroline Perkins' story to find out.

Labor represents another issue that perplexes all segments of the foodservice industry equally. Operators, consultants, dealers, reps and even service agents share similar labor concerns: not enough qualified people, rising costs, generational differences and more.

What can a company do about it? Instead of focusing on what your organization lacks, begin by concentrating on what it actually has. Specifically, look for opportunities to grow future leaders from your current team and promote from within. While this may seem logical, it seems to be something that happens all too infrequently in today’s foodservice industry.

In large part, this is due to the fact that cultivating talent from within does not happen by accident. It takes thoughtful planning and careful consideration, as Julie Jones of The Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center points out in this month’s Operator’s Opinion. The industry’s obsession with topline sales also works against cultivating talent from within. Because cultivating talent — particularly young talent — requires a consistent time commitment on the part of both management and the aspiring leader. Often, in the short term, that can lead to trading transactions for professional development activities, something not every company is willing to do. But those companies willing to embrace such a people-first philosophy can reap a return on investment that will position their organization for continued success for generations to come.

Indeed, concept, menu and labor development will continue to simmer on the industry’s front burner, so to speak, throughout the coming year as the foodservice community starts to form a vision for the restaurant of the future. Consumers continue to change the way they shop, prioritize health and define convenience. And all of these of factors impact menu composition, design and countless other factors that contribute to successful foodservice operations.

With debates like these shaping the conversation, 2019 should prove to be another intriguing year for the foodservice industry — and we at FE&S look forward to covering it!