Foodservice by Design

Team members from Profitality-Labor Guru discuss how industrial engineering can be applied to the foodservice industry.


The NAFEM Show: An Innovation Occasion

Four years in the making The NAFEM Show 2023 and the events leading up to it did not disappoint.

Things got off on a positive note during the symposium hosted by the Foodservice Consultants Society International – The Americas Division when keynote speaker and demographer Ken Gronbach used data to illustrate the growing demand for foodservice in the coming years. Consumers’ appetites for food prepared outside of the home will remain healthy and we consultants, designers, suppliers, brands, etc. should benefit tremendously from it. After Ken, we had the opportunity to listen to many presentations and panels that provided us with additional insights into the industry. One of the breakout sessions was one moderated by FE&S Joe Carbonara during which an operator panel discussed how they are using technology to not only offset labor but add value to customers.

Overall, the mood among my fellow FCSI members and the business partners present was very positive, and the energy was high. That atmosphere carried over to The NAFEM Show when it officially opened on February 1, 2023.

Unsurprisingly, automation was something on everyone’s mind when we hit the show floor and there was lots to see in this area. Last year when attending other trade shows, I felt the automation on display was limited mostly to robots that can run food orders and bus tables. That was not the case at The NAFEM Show. In this instance, automation spanned a variety of product categories, including:

  • Fryers
  • Drink Systems
  • Breaders
  • Condiment Dispensers
  • Coffee Dispensers
  • Equipment Cleaning Devices
  • Information Management

NAFEM collage martinezPhoto courtesy of Juan Martinez, Profitality

Some of the examples my team saw on the show floor are immediately applicable for our existing clients, while other pieces are stored in our memory bank for future consideration. It was also great to see many manufacturers add equipment to their existing lineups and enhance the technology these items use. Regardless, it was great to see so much thoughtful new innovation on display.

For consultants like our firm and foodservice designers in general, The NAFEM Show represents a great opportunity to seek innovation that can help us drive greater impact to our clients. I often take time to walk The NAFEM Show and other tradeshows show with existing and potential clients to show them what I see and get their takes on how the available technology may (or may not) apply to their businesses both now and in the future. I even link up with clients over the phone as I see things during the show, inquiring about information and questions that I may have, as I do my rounds on the floor.

But the time spent in Orlando for FCSI and The NAFEM Show was special to me for more than just the innovative products on display.

For example, this was the first time in a long, long while that our entire consulting team was in the same place at the same time. Like so many foodservice consulting firms, our work often takes on the road working with our clients to help drive better unit economics for their businesses. For this reason, it was a treat for us to walk the show together to share a few ideas and observations as well as simply spend some time with one another attending various functions and even having a team dinner.

In addition, it was great to see people pickup copies of the January edition of FE&S, which featured an article on how Disney Corp. applies industrial engineering principles when trying to create the happiest restaurants on earth, which was written by our newest team member Kaytee Schrantz. Disney is a powerful presence and there’s plenty we all can learn from it.

Lastly, just prior to heading to Orlando for the FCSI and NAFEM events, I received word that FE&S had named me the recipient of its 2023 Top Achiever – Consultant award. I was touched not only to receive this recognition but also by the nice feedback from people I encountered while walking the show. Congratulations to all of FE&S 2023 Top Achievers!

Disney may be trying to create the greatest restaurants on earth but from start to finish our time in Orlando attending the FCSI and NAFEM events should serve as a reminder to all of us that we get the privilege to work in the greatest industry on earth.

Let’s go have a great 2023!