A 35-year veteran of the restaurant and foodservice industry, Susan Wilkie’s career has been a journey through health care, universities, theme park foodservice and, in 2002, she entered the consulting world. As owner of Wilkie Enterprises and vice president of the Strategic Planning Studio at DM&A Webb, Susan has contributed to the operational success of foodservice enterprises and the professional development of individuals. Susan was awarded the IFMA Silver Plate Award for College and University contributions to the industry while at San Diego State University.
FE&S: What type of charitable activities are you involved in?
Susan Wilkie: I support several organizations: Susan B. Komen for the Cure because I have friends and family who have suffered from breast cancer. The Santa Ana Firefighters, Paramedics and Police because they responded with grace, sympathy and expertise multiple times to my home when my son was critically ill. I support Working Women’s Wardrobes, an organization that helps women return to work wearing business garments that they could not afford without their help. Also, I am the writer for Floral Park Home and Garden Tour. Our community sponsors an annual weekend tour of the historic homes in my community, and the funds are used for scholarships.
FE&S: Any interesting hobbies?
Susan Wilkie: Reading is my first and gardening my second.
FE&S: What do you look for in a business partner?
Susan Wilkie: A “think partner” — someone who can have a dialogue with me about a challenge or an approach to a situation. Someone who is patient, listens and thinks of “blue sky” ideas. Someone who can pull out my creative thinking. A transparent colleague who will provide honest feedback with kindness.
FE&S: What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you?
Susan Wilkie: Learn from the surprises that catch you off guard.
FE&S: Nobody knows I...
Susan Wilkie: ...discovered a bag of live grenades and ammunition while working for the post office in college. The bag had been shipped from Vietnam and bagged with liquid soaps. The military appeared on the scene immediately. It was an exciting day!
FE&S: When traveling for business, what is one of your favorite pastimes?
Susan Wilkie: Dining at trendy and exotic restaurants!
FE&S: Knowing what you now know, would you still pursue a career in foodservice?
Susan Wilkie: Absolutely. If I could change something though, I would probably change my focus to hotel and restaurant management from dietetics, and add two years of culinary education to my business degree.
FE&S: If I were just starting out in the foodservice industry, what advice would you give me?
Susan Wilkie: Get an education in the management, culinary and business side of the industry. Today, that combined education is essential for success and ongoing development. Find a mentor and work with him/her. Assume good intent in all you do and in your relationships. It will benefit any political and personnel challenges that might face you. Listen. Ask questions. No one learns anything by talking. Don’t let surprises in your personal or work life take you away from your goal. Stay focused.
Click here to read part one of the interview with Susan Wilkie.