Presentation. Presentation. Presentation.

People eat with their eyes first.

It's been said so often that it almost sounds cliche and yet it's almost impossible to overstate the importance of a tabletop installation in any foodservice operation. What makes a tabletop so important? Let me count the ways.

First, let's start with the simple idea that the way you set the table helps set customer expectations. The type of flatware on the table, the state of accessories and everything else on the table that a customer sees when first taking a seat speaks volumes about the food, service and overall atmosphere they will experience during their time on site. In other words, the tabletop becomes the foundation for the customer experience.

Second, customers spend more time interacting with the tabletop than they do staff members or any other aspect of the foodservice operation. Staff members may seat patrons, take their orders, deliver food items and even clear the dirty dishes but the time of those interactions pales in comparison to the amount of time customers spend on their own actually enjoying the food. The tabletop should help facilitate the aura of excellence the operation strives to reach. This requires attention to detail and thoughtful selection of all items.

Finally, a well-appointed tabletop should really let the food pop and serve as a platform that showcases an operation's culinary creations. Presenting food in a creative and thoughtful manner allows operators from all segments to provide more than a plate of food for a price. That's something customers can get anywhere. Proper plating and presentation of food facilitates memorable experiences, ones that turn customers into fans and helps grow foodservice businesses of all kinds.

In this issue we proudly celebrate those tabletops that facilitate meaningful customer experience in FE&S' 2017 Performance in Tabletop Awards. The 15 installations profiled represent the best of the best in the eyes of our judges and celebrate how the individual items work together to represent the overall concept, support the menu and how conducive they are to the overall concept. This competition draws entries from all over the country and, without question, is very competitive. In the eyes of our judges the winners stood out from a very crowded and qualified field of entries. Suffice it to say, there's lots of people who understand it all comes down to presentation.

Speaking of impressive presentations, kudos to those foodservice professionals who participated in The NAFEM Show, which took place in February in Orlando. The manufacturers set the tone, once again, by putting their collective best foot forward in the form of countless new products. And the rest of the industry followed their lead enthusiastically. The energy on the show floor was electric as operators, consultants, dealers and service agents buzzed from one appointment to the next.

Hopefully the show's positive vibe will reverberate throughout the industry for the next two years — until the next show.