Operators differ about future management talent

B&I and colleges say we’re fine; schools and healthcare show concern.

Even with unemployment running high, foodservice operators aren’t sure if career hunters will want to follow in their footsteps. The key determinant, they say, is how well the industry spotlights the opportunities available today to prospective candidates.

Overall, directors are almost evenly split on the chances of drawing enough talent to replace the veterans who’ll retire from senior-level management posts in the next five years. Forty-nine percent of The Big Picture respondents say enough successors will be found, while 51% indicate they doubt it.

But confidence in averting a leadership gap varied widely from segment to segment.
Respondents from B&I are the most optimistic, with 84% saying they foresee no shortage of management professionals, followed by peers in colleges, with 59% predicting an adequate talent pool.

In sharp contrast, 61% of survey participants from schools indicate they expect a shortage of possible successors, and the outlook was only slightly better among the operators of healthcare facilities, with 54% expressing a pessimistic view.

Operators say awareness and familiarity with the opportunities afforded by each segment are responsible for the difference in opinion by segment. Dawn Houser, nutrition manager for Collier County (Fla.) Public Schools, says she wouldn’t trade her career for anything, but acknowledges that she stumbled upon it despite extensive education in hospitality management.

“In my four years at Penn State, not once did they mention school feeding as a career option,” she explains. “The culinary and hospitality schools don’t focus on this aspect of the business.”

Conversely, she says, “If you look at employee feeding, it closely mirrors what you see in the private retail sector,” a.k.a. restaurants, foodservice’s most visible and familiar job option.

Take that awareness and add the advantages of a nearly conventional workday and you have the reason why B&I operations “never have a shortage of applicants,” says Cavin Sullivan, general manager with Metz Culinary Management at JM Smucker Co., in Orrville, Ohio.

“We’ve all done the restaurants, the grind of the retail side,” he says. “I have a huge advantage being a Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. operation.

“I wish I’d known about the contract side a long time ago.” 

Fast Facts

51% of operators believe that there will not be enough trained management professionals within the next five years to take over for retirees.