The reality facing design consultants is that the skill sets that make them successful probably won't be enough to sustain business growth in the years to come. So what should design consultants do to remain relevant? Egnor feels his company and others like it will have to have command of the answers to these key questions: Who are our clients? What are they looking for? What are the changes in their business, and how does that relate to how we work with them?
"For JEM to be viable for the next 5 to 10 years — or even 30 years for that matter — it will take staying in front of the wave," Egnor says. "We have to keep the company ahead of what is happening so you are leading business instead of following business. You don't have to be the first one there, but you have to be among the first."
One thing that won't change is the need to master the art of customer service. "I am a firm believer in promising them one thing and delivering more," Schildkraut says. "You have to make sure your client is happy with what you are doing. You still have to get it done on time and on budget. That was drummed into me by John Cini and Dewayne Grissom the first week I started in this business. And if it were not for those two gentlemen, I would not be in this profession."
On an individual level, Reitano says, "Business skills matter. Creativity still matters too. And design skills matter too. It's a combination of all these things that matter."
From Reitano's perspective, the key to continued relevance for consultants and all other members of the foodservice industry is best summed up in one word: value. "You better bring value or get out of the way," Reitano says. "What services we offer and how we go about that will continue to change and it should. It is absolutely up to consultants to creatively make sure the marketplace understands the value they bring to the customer and the manufacturer. I don't think there is a day coming soon where any one member of the distribution chain is gone. But as in any other industry, if you stop adding value, customers will continue to go around you. Strong marketing wins: People need to know who you are and what value you bring."
"But what has not changed is that you are still working with architects and end users to create their vision," Reitano says. "You work with them to make it come together appropriately within their budget and space constraints. At the end of the day it is still about people eating, and the quality of the food and how it is served matters."