3 sizzling how-tos from the SHFM conference

Published in FSD Update

Dana Moran, Managing Editor

shfm conference stage chefs

It wasn’t just the outdoor temperatures that were sizzling during the Society for Hospitality and Foodservice Management’s national conference in Phoenix. The annual event, held Sept. 12-14 at the historic Arizona Biltmore (itself a treasure trove of stealable ideas), was a hotbed of activity and creativity. Here are a few standout moments.

1. How to communicate with the future

Operators are well aware that the workplace is becoming a millennial world. But how best to integrate their ideas and make them want to come into the office instead of working from a coffee shop?

“When you hire someone fresh out of college, ask what they find the most strange about the way you and your team work, communicate and make decisions,” Mike Walsh—CEO of Tomorrow, an innovation consultancy—said during the “Designing Your Business for the 21st Century” session. He also suggests inviting your youngest employees to describe how they would expect to access the company’s services in the future.

2. How best to build teams

Combine water balloons, cowboys, “The Hunger Games,” dart guns and plastic trophies, and you’ve got the recipe for a bunch of delighted adults. The organization’s annual Hunger Games event ostensibly was created to raise funds for national hunger relief charities, but I personally left having done some great networking and with a solid sense of camaraderie with my fellow Green Team members. The message: Letting your employees exercise their goofy sides during team-building activities lets them know you care about them as real people. They’ll remember it.

3. How to do some sneaky recon

Yes, those work-related conferences your boss wants you to attend are helpful. But what if you want ideas that no one else in your segment is talking about? During the “Are You Still Relevant?” session, attendees got a lesson in covert operations—namely, heading to a local hotel ballroom and sitting in for a random conference. At an event on human nature, speaker Ross Shafer learned that many people don’t know what they’re having for dinner by 4 p.m. He turned that concept around into a successful marketing campaign for McCormick and Schmick’s—an idea he never would have had without being in the wrong place at the right time. 

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