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.

Keywords: 
new concepts

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
vote buttons pins

On every other Thursday of our four-week cycle menu, we allow K-8 students to pick the entree choices. The media center specialist for each of the participating schools sets up the list of entree items on a computer for voting, and the winning entrees are given to cafeteria managers two weeks before the upcoming month to put into production. Students really like this, as it promotes ownership of the menu.

Ideas and Innovation
chalkboard

We highlight our North Carolina products on a large chalkboard in our dining halls, and also list any produce we bring in from our own agroecology farm. It helps tell our story—positive and local.

Ideas and Innovation
raised garden beds

We have raised garden beds that residents can reserve and use to grow their own plants. Whenever a resident brings me fresh produce from their own garden, I try and incorporate it into a dish. If I do end up using it, I will display the resident’s name and what the produce was next to the dish on the menu.

Ideas and Innovation
chartwells teaching kids

Curriculum for the mobile teaching kitchen centers around a single kid-friendly recipe, using ingredients that can provide talking points for nutrition, sustainability and food origins. “The recipe is the lesson,” Saidel says. “Every ingredient is an opportunity to talk.”

Earlier this year, Saidel, Perkins and Harvey did a student demo featuring roasted chicken and white bean tacos with greens and citrus salsa. “We can say, ‘Why are we using chicken instead of beef? Why are there some beans in here?’ You can talk about plant proteins and the sustainability and health message around...

FSD Resources