The foodservice industry seems stuck in a rut.
It’s rare when someone at an industry event does not bemoan the industry’s inability to attract new and young talent. One can close their eyes and imagine this conversation taking place at any cocktail party at any fancy resort property with any industry association’s annual conference as the conduit for bringing everyone together.
Yet when companies announce new hires, they all seem to come with previous foodservice industry experience. Rare is the new hire announcement that introduces us to someone with no prior foodservice industry experience. It’s almost like being a baseball manager: After that first team hires you, getting the second or third or fourth job becomes much easier no matter how many times you get fired.
Ironically for the foodservice industry, there are many simple solutions to solving this lack of new people entering the industry. First, and perhaps the simplest, is taking a long look in the mirror and listening to how you talk not only about your businesses but also your alleged partners. Margins are low, competition is high and project lead times are shorter than ever. I know. But think back to what first drew you to this industry? What keeps you here?
Accentuate the positives as much as possible when talking about what you do, particularly to people outside of the foodservice industry. This will make the foodservice industry more attractive to outsiders.
Second, you need to take to the streets to evangelize for the foodservice industry. It’s not enough to speak positively in the break room or at company meetings. You have to go out and educate people about what, in your opinion, makes foodservice a fun and worthwhile endeavor. You have to show them how their skills can relate to this industry. That’s exactly what Clark Associates, FE&S’ 2015 Dealer of the Year, does to attract young talent. Also, create a work environment that embraces your company’s past while demonstrating that you have an eye toward the future. Marc Israel has done just that with the new facility and test kitchen at his dealership, Great Lakes, in Michigan.
Finally, leverage the resources available to you. For a wonderful example, look no further than Matt Denardo, the author of this month’s parting shot (page 96). After honorably serving his country for 21 years and spending some of his post-military career in public service, Matt realized it was time to write a new chapter in his life. And with some help from Vet2Tech, he now has a career working in the foodservice equipment industry.
It’s encouraging to see organizations such as NAFEM and FCSI-The Americas Division stepping up with initiatives to make the foodservice industry more appealing to younger generations. But they can’t go it alone. They need your help.
This industry can be a destination for young people, but it’s up to you to make it that way.