The energy of ideas

Steal This Idea Live! gave insight to those looking for new ideas.

Researchers have postulated that if you put a group of monkeys in a room full of typewriters—now, computers, of course—eventually they would pound out the complete works of William Shakespeare.

I don’t really believe that, but I do know from personal experience that if you bring a roomful of college foodservice professionals together for any length of time, you will get a ton of ideas. Such was the case last week when FoodService Director and Hormel Foodservice co-sponsored the second annual In Front of the Future Summit at Hormel’s corporate headquarters in Austin, Minn.

Eleven members of NACUFS, including directors, assistant directors, culinary directors and a nutritionist, met for two and a half days to share ideas and learn more about their current and future customers. The event included a presentation on millennials from Iconoculture, a Minneapolis-based firm that tracks demographic trends, a talk about the snacking habits of young women from Tanya Ceja-Zamarripa, a tour of the Hormel processing plant and an opportunity to taste some Hormel products currently in test mode and provide feedback on them.

As part of the summit, we included a 75-minute session called Steal This Idea Live!, where we invited the attendees to share ideas with each other and us. It was a surprising and enlightening engagement—enlightening because it provided me with some valuable insight into what these people consider important in terms of customer service, training, employee recognition and more, and surprising because the wide range of ideas that came out of that one session.

I have covered non-commercial foodservice for more than 25 years, and I still find myself amazed and impressed by the innovation that comes from our readers. It’s a major reason why I still enjoy being a magazine editor in this industry.

From “Waffle Wednesdays” at the University of Oklahoma, to the reusable boxes that San Diego State University designed to display their to-go sandwiches, the ideas just flowed from these 11 people. At meals, on the shuttle bus, and even over a late-evening beer, the conversation almost always offered some nuggets of insight that would help them do their jobs better, help Hormel understand their customer better and help us provide a better product, both in print and online.

The month of June has been a busy one for me, both professionally and personally, but I wouldn’t have missed this opportunity to meet new friends and reconnect with old friends for anything. Learning at least one new thing each day helps to keep us motivated, I believe, and last week provided enough motivation to keep me energized for quite a while.

new concepts

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