When it comes to foodservice equipment and supplies, keeping your product knowledge up to date can be an overwhelming task.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I am a big college football fan. So as you are reading this, know full well that I am preparing to enjoy the many bowl games that mark the end of each college football season. It's like an athletic smorgasbord of sorts for yours truly.

Why do I love college football so much? I think two words aptly sum up my interest in the sport: passion and pageantry. Other than partisan politics, I doubt that you can find a more passionate discussion than when you get two people who hail from different colleges discussing their teams. Want proof? Walk through the offices of The Wasserstrom Company in Columbus, Ohio, and take a look at the many photos of the staff's beloved Buckeyes vanquishing their hated rivals from that state to the north. (Real Ohio State fans never mention Michigan by name, nor do they reference the school with any terminology that I am permitted to use here. But I digress...)

As for the pageantry, well, the spectacle surrounding most college football games is second to none. From the marching bands to fans wearing obnoxiously colored blazers that mimic their school's colors, game day can be quite the sight.

And the game is always changing and evolving, with a new group of players and coaches entering the fray each year as others move on to the NFL or their other chosen profession. This dynamic keeps the game from getting stale and gives loyal followers like me a reason to keep our knowledge base current.

Indeed, I believe that many of the aforementioned traits that make college football such a pleasure for me are similar to the ones that make the foodservice industry so dynamic and appealing to so many people.

The past few months, we at FE&S have spent considerable time developing some very foodservice-equipment–and-supplies-oriented content. From our annual Best in Class Study to last month's E&S Directory to this issue — our biennial Product Knowledge Guide — it's more product focused than usual for us. And if you want to spark a passionate debate among foodservice professionals, regardless of their position within the industry, have a discussion about their choice in products. The passion these conversations can stir never ceases to impress me. Down to the smallest detail, operators, dealers, consultants, service agents and, yes, even factory reps, can articulate their case as to why one product is better than another.

Those foodservice professionals are able to speak so passionately about various products because they work very hard at keeping their knowledge base current. And it is in that spirit we present this Product Knowledge Guide. Our intent here is simple: provide foodservice professionals with baseline knowledge about some key equipment and supply items. By establishing this baseline you are ready to explore the more intricate and complex applications of the various pieces of equipment and supply items available.

If you are a seasoned foodservice veteran, we hope that this issue will serve as a refresher course. For the foodservice rookies, we hope this issue will serve as a good introduction to the tools of the trade, so to speak.

As for the pageantry, well every two years the foodservice industry gets a healthy dose of that when the doors open to The NAFEM Show. As the biggest and shiniest equipment and supplies-oriented venue, The NAFEM Show, which takes place from Feb. 10 – 12, 2011 in Orlando, presents the best opportunity for all foodservice professionals to invest the time necessary to ensure their product knowledge base is up to date, and perhaps learn a few new things that might stir their passion for this business.

I look forward to seeing you there.