Calm After the Storm

MenuDirections 2012 was a memorable conference. Now, how do we make it better?

After five days on the road, I’m back in our New York office, collecting my thoughts in the aftermath of what might have been our best MenuDirections conference ever. We had record attendance in terms of both operators and vendor partners, in Charleston, S.C., last week, along with some really informative and insightful content. Combined, that makes this a conference to remember.

Many things made this gathering significant. We created a strong, timely theme—Creating Flavor, Selling Health—and then carried it through in virtually every aspect of the conference. The only exception was the Dine-Around, a visit to three of Charleston’s great restaurants, which was outstanding for the quality of the food, if not its health quotient.

Flavor and health resonated with this group, and they were eager to learn about both. Workshops were filled to capacity, and some people actually passed up the networking breaks in between sessions, afraid that they would get shut out of a workshop other attendees were raving about.

MenuDirections taxes a hotel’s kitchen and staff like few other conferences, and yet what attendees saw was near seamless execution.

Dr. James Painter, the nutrition expert from Eastern Illinois University who was a big hit at last year’s conference, wowed attendees again with his description of 10 foods that can stave off heart disease. We once again got to honor the best in our business with our FSD of the Month Dinner—at which Lisette Coston of Saint Francis Medical Center in Tulsa, Okla., was named FSD of the Year—and our second annual Goldies Awards.

There were a lot of accolades tossed out throughout the conference, both from operator and sponsor attendees and from CSP executives, a few of whom hadn’t attended MenuDirections before.  It was a good feeling, knowing so many people were going away secure in the knowledge that they had been given reams of information to help them do their jobs better. But I wasn’t satisfied.

Of course, I am seldom satisfied. The editor in me is always critical, always evaluating and always seeing how something could have been written better, presented more compellingly or executed more flawlessly. MD 2012 was no exception.

I’m told that’s a good thing, although I am often like Mr. Tanner, the subject of a Happy Chapin song, who gets the chance to live his dream of being a singer. Chapin describes the man’s experience in this way: “He did not know how well he sang, he only heard the flaws.”

So I am already mulling over what I thought were misfires, wondering how to avoid them next year, while examining what worked well and trying to conceive of ways to make those elements better. To their credit, the rest of our MenuDirections team is doing the same thing.

To tweak the oft-quoted adage about restaurants, we’re only as good as our next conference. The good thing is that when you do something well and create a buzz about it, people will return. On the flip side, they expect their next experience to be even better than their last. So their expectation becomes our goal. To be honest, I guess I wouldn’t have it any other way.

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
desserts plate

We’re knocking down a wall in our bar area, which will create a more inviting atmosphere and allow us to host a coffee and dessert bar in the space on off nights when the bar is closed.

Industry News & Opinion
nacufs award

Ohio University Director of Culinary Services Rich Neumann was on Wednesday evening awarded NACUFS’ 49th annual Theodore W. Minah Distinguished Service Award, the association’s highest honor.

Neumann’s foodservice career began as an undergraduate at University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point. After his first day as a student cook, he says, his production manager wanted to fire him because he was striving for perfection, not—as she put it—“now and fast.” But he kept with it, eventually moving up to student manager. “If I had quit, I would not be here today,” he says.

During...

Sponsored Content
iced coffee foodservice

From International Delight ® Iced Coffee and STOK ® Cold Brew.

As temperatures soar, consumers look for any way they can to cool down. Much of the time, that means sipping on a cold beverage. And for the many patrons looking for a pick-me-up, iced coffee is a go-to choice, as it wakes them up and cools them down.

It’s no surprise, then, that iced coffee is a growing opportunity for operators. In Technomic’s 2016 Beverage Consumer Trend Report, 59% of consumers say they ordered iced coffee at least once in the past month from foodservice locations. With demand continuing to...

Industry News & Opinion

Oxnard Union High School District in Oxnard, Calif., is ending its meatless Mondays initiative due to cost and a lack of participation, the Camarillo Acorn reports.

Meatless Monday , which was offered on Fridays during the most recent school year, was the least popular lunch day during the week, according to school officials. The district hopes that the menu change will encourage more students to purchase school meals and help eliminate the $2 million deficit in its nutrition budget.

While 61% of students in the district qualify for free meals, only around half eat at the...

FSD Resources