Small-scale partnerships

Published in FSD Update

Intimate meetings often bring about valuable information.

When the weather outside is as cold as it has been the last couple of weeks, it’s really hard to think about taking a road trip. A quick look at a U.S. map reveals that there aren’t too many places at present where one can go to experience real warmth, a fact I learned last week when I ventured to Savannah, Ga., for the NACUFS Food Service Directors Symposium and Chefs Summit.

When NACUFS invited us to present a college and university version of The Big Picture, I readily agreed to go, thinking that I would escape the bitterly cold Midwest for at least a couple of days. Savannah, however, turned out to be not much above freezing. Fortunately, NACUFS’ hospitality added the warmth that the weather couldn’t provide.

I’m sorry that I couldn’t spend more time with the participants—I was the after-dinner speaker the night before the symposium officially kicked off and had to return home the next day. But from what I could see, the event underscores the value of partnerships in our industry.

The symposium is an annual gathering of 30 college foodservice directors or otherwise senior-level managers. Two-thirds of the operator attendees receive grants from sponsoring companies that defray much of the travel costs associated with the event. In return, the sponsors receive 20 minutes of quality time with each of those grant-receiving attendees. As the NACUFS website states, “It is not the time for a direct sales pitch—but rather, an opportunity for an in-depth discussion of potential issues, solutions, and partnerships for the future.”

It is rather hard to overstate the value of such one-on-one meetings and small-group gatherings. As eventful as the national conferences of organizations like NACUFS, AHF, SNA and others can be, many manufacturers will tell you that much of their most meaningful business is conducted in smaller venues.

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