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MenuDirections 2016: Open to change

Last month, during a visit to Yale University, I was struck by something Yale Dining Executive Director Rafi Taherian said. While showing us the university’s stellar dining and retail operations—in my opinion, one of the leading examples in college dining—Taherian told us that when manufacturers don’t have the products he’s looking for, he challenges them to create something new. “If you’re a change-resistant company, you are missing opportunities,” he has said.

That could apply to many things. At Yale, with every item they serve—from fresh-made compound salads to packaged snacks—it’s all about cleaner labels, fewer preservatives, understanding the food supply. It is a university on the leading edge, and those who want to be a partner on that path need to be open to the opportunities.

That kind of thinking is the driving force for the 2016 MenuDirections conferenceFoodService Director’s annual gathering of the top menu-minded leaders in foodservice.

menu directions speaker

If you’ve been to MenuDirections, you’ll notice a number of changes at the event, taking place Feb. 28–March 1 at the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront in Jacksonville, Fla. They’re changes designed to deliver even more new ideas in a format that is unique, engaging, exciting and fresh. Here’s a preview:

The agenda for 2016 reflects an even broader cross-section of ideas. With the blurring of the segments in foodservice, everybody’s trying to do things differently. Hospitals aren’t just finding inspiration from other hospitals, and college and universities are looking beyond other higher-learning institutions for great ideas. By bringing together the best ideas in the industry, we are facilitating that exchange.

This year, there’s no registration fee. Because you are reading this, I get to let you in on a little “secret.” When you go online to MenuDirections.com to register for the 2016 conference, enter the code “culinary,” and you will receive free registration. It’s a perk that’s open to every attendee. So, if in the past the cost of the conference held you back from attending, you have a new reason to make the trip.

dine around memphis

Those attendees who choose to take part in our popular dine-around, a one-of-a-kind tasting tour of three of Jacksonville’s must-visit restaurant concepts, will have to pay separately for that experience. At $150, it’s still far less than the previous cost to attend MenuDirections—and there are limited spots available, so if this is part of your agenda, don’t wait to register.

In addition to our five general sessions and 12 educational workshops, for the first time, MenuDirections will be hosting a series of Flash Talks. The 15-minute, mini-sessions are our version of TED Talks, the thought-leadership model designed to spread forward-thinking ideas. These short information bursts will provide industry updates from experts on topics that matter to the future of every operation.

In FSD’s June issue, we introduced you to our Chefs’ Council, an exclusive panel of industry insiders who share their insights and answer your questions on the pages of the magazine every month. At MenuDirections, you’ll have a chance to experience Chefs’ Council live, as we bring together onstage members of our council from different segments of foodservice. They’ll discuss ways they’re bringing new ideas, flavors and techniques to life in their operations, as well as how they’re solving some current challenges all foodservice operators face.

One thing that has not changed about MenuDirections is that it’s all about the food. As an industry, we lose sight of that sometimes. We get hung up on cost, labor, customer satisfaction and other challenges of the day. But how many complaints do you get when the food is good?

menu directions food

Above all, MenuDirections remains the leading culinary conference focused on food and how we can deliver food that’s even better for the students, employees and guests we serve. As always, attendees will come away with actionable ideas that they can replicate in their own operations.

As those who are open to change—like Taherian at Yale and the organizers of our 2016 conference—know: It’s about having an awareness and understanding of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. And it’s about seeking out new ideas to address them. That’s what MenuDirections is going to help you achieve. I look forward to seeing you there.

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