The more things change, the more they stay the same.
That tired old cliché has never applied more to the foodservice industry than it does today. The conversation for the past year or so has focused on what’s changed and the impact of those changes on the foodservice industry. Restaurant dining rooms closed. Industry events moved online. Project meetings took place via video conferencing.
Indeed, much has changed. But much has stayed the same.
For example, the foodservice industry has long been a place where entrepreneurs could come to bring their visions to life. One such person doing that is Nili Malach Poynter (page 18). She and her husband Robert had lots of friends who owned restaurants, and they watched as these friends’ various establishments closed. Lovers of local food scenes, the Poynters decided to get in the game by harnessing the ghost kitchen craze to help independents just starting out or those who want to test out a new concept or menu idea. The net result is ChefReady, a unique ghost kitchen-based community in Denver.
The goal is to get this first location up and running successfully before possibly opening future venues. It’s inspiring to see one couple use their entrepreneurial spirit to fan those same flames in others.
In addition, this industry’s sense of charity never ceases to amaze me. Just a few weeks before a sucker punch from the pandemic brought the industry to its knees in early 2020, the North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers launched its first-ever social purpose platform. The goal was simple: Foodservice equipment and supplies manufacturers wanted to give back to the various communities they serve by working with Feeding America to address hunger issues. In light of the pandemic, nobody would have faulted NAFEM member companies for putting this initiative on hold. But that’s not what they did.
Instead, 151 NAFEM member companies donated roughly $1.36 million, which translates into more than 13.6 million meals — all during a pandemic. That level of participation would be respectable in a normal year, but the fact that these companies stepped up during such an uncertain economic environment makes it all the more impressive and shows the industry’s spirit of generosity will burn brightly forever.
Some companies are choosing to not let the pandemic slow them down as they continue their march onward with plans for growth. Companies that continue down their growth paths have a clear vision and understanding of their value propositions and the direction in which they want to take their organizations. Instead of being content waiting for the business environment to improve, they continue to take matters in their own hands, looking for opportunities to get a leg up on the competition so they can really hit the ground running when the time is right.
No doubt the industry has faced many challenges, but it has also scored many wins in the face of unprecedented adversity. That creativity and perseverance will help move it forward when times do improve.