2012 Silver Plate—Micrsoft's Mark Freeman discusses the value of SFM

Freeman's involvement in SFM led him to help create new super conference.

As a 2012 Silver Plate winner it fits that Mark Freeman, senior manager of Global Employee Services at Microsoft, has been heavily involved in the industry throughout the year. Freeman spoke to FSD about his many industry achievements, including his biggest to date, incoming president of the Society of Foodservice Management [SFM].

“I started with SFM when I was working in the college and university world. It was one of those things where I attended the national conference or went to some local meetings just to see what was going on and to meet people. It’s just been in the last five years where I have gotten seriously involved with the association. When I first joined I thought, from a growth standpoint, SFM was the premier association in our industry, so what better way to connect with people in the industry and keep up on the latest trends? It lets you feel the pulse of the industry.

So I took a more active role in the organization. I joined a couple of the committees and started to meet some really cool people who were very intelligent about our industry. As luck would have it, I got on the board of directors and just recently became the president-elect, so in 2013 will be my year to be president. Barbara Kane is doing a fantastic job at this point so what I’ll do is pretty much extend what she is doing in the ways of creating value to the industry and our membership.

[SFM is] a great organization. I really have gotten quite a bit out of being a member. It is mainly the opportunities it gives you to meet people. Any time you have a question you can reach out to people and usually get a fantastic answer. Recently SFM has become involved with Solutions Four. Solutions Four is a conference that brings together four foodservice industry associations: AHF, FCSI, NACUFS and SFM. We’ve had two conferences and the response has been phenomenal, especially for the sponsors because they can hit all four associations at the same time. Our programming has also been a huge success. The most recent conference, which was held at Microsoft, focused on innovation and trends. We had some fantastic speakers that not only spoke to each one of the industries but also spoke to the foodservice industry as a whole.

Solutions Four kind of grew out of some local networking groups that myself and Meg Clark from Boeing in Seattle created in our area. It started as foodservice liaisons just getting together and having coffee. We invited people from all over to come in. We started this grassroots kind of thing and then it developed into a conference. We had a one-day event where we brought speakers in. At that point in time it was specifically for SFM members and we had some success. It was relatively new to SFM because the association is primarily an East Coast association. When I got on the board of directors one of my platforms was to encourage people on the West Coast to do more networking events. Solutions Four grew from that.

The other industry-related organization I’m involved in is I’m on the board of directors for South Seattle Community College’s hospitality program. It’s a community college, but it’s actually offering the junior and senior year of a hospitality program for management. The interesting thing about it is it’s not a culinary-based program. It’s more management based. I’ve been working with the kids there. We have different events where I get to tell them about the business and industry side of foodservice. They are mostly studying about hotels, restaurants and cruise lines so it’s important to me to make sure they understand there is this other world that’s called the onsite foodservice.”