When putting together our surveys, FoodService Director’s editors tend to ask operators about big trends that we’re seeing throughout the industry. For the November "Besties" issue, we asked readers to share the best ways they’re menuing things like plant-based dishes, trending international cuisines and creative DIY options.
Great responses flooded in from across the country, and it was tough to narrow down which would make it into the cover story. A few even came in after the piece was finished. Laura Thompson, resident district manager for Aramark at James Madison University, told us beet soft-serve ice cream was a big success at her Harrisonburg, Va., dining halls. And Duane Steiniweg at Lone Pine Country Club in Washington, Pa., is deep-frying gnocchi and tossing it in cinnamon-sugar for a twisted dessert.
But one operator’s response reminded me of one danger of thinking about FSDs as one big group instead of individuals—sometimes, you can’t see the trees for the forest. Eva Hampton, foodservice director at Shearer-Richardson Memorial Nursing Home in Okolona, Miss., wrote that the questions in the survey didn’t have anything to do with operating in a rural setting. “It is very hard to introduce a different menu or international foods because this is a Southern state and [our diners] don’t accept changes well,” she says.
I reached out to Eva individually, hoping to gain more insight on how FoodService Director could better serve her and other small-market operations. She told me that her diners prefer foods their grandparents prepared when they were young, such as fried fish, cornbread, green beans and sweet potatoes, and aren’t interested in changing. But, she suggested, perhaps we could further divide our questions into trendy foods for young people versus those popular among the elderly, especially in healthcare.
She also expressed surprise that her input had been reviewed, and I want all our readers to know that I personally read through every individual survey response. Since FSDs as a unit—there I go again with that lumping together—are such a massive group, there’s no way for FSD to have eyes on the ground in every operation. So we depend on your emails, calls, survey responses and conference check-in chats to know what’s important. I can’t tell you how much I appreciated Eva’s candor—it was a reality check I didn’t even know I needed.
So to all our operators, big and small, hello out there from Chicago. I see you (not literally, we don’t have a drone budget), and promise I’ll be making a greater effort to cover all of your concerns and interests from here on out.