FoodService Director has long been known for the breadth and the quality of our research. Our census reports on schools, colleges, business and industry, hospitals and long-term care have graced the pages of our magazine for more than 25 years.
In 2012, we upped our game by creating The Big Picture, the most comprehensive research ever conducted on non-commercial foodservice. For the past three years we have examined the menus, operations, and workforces of our readership to paint as complete a picture as possible of the challenges and trends affecting this industry.
Time and again, our research has proven to be valuable to both operators and suppliers, because of the unique nature of our intel. No foodservice research firms focus exclusively on the non-commercial foodservice market. Most off-the-shelf research examines what consumers want or what restaurateurs say are the trends and innovations to watch.
For that reason, we believe our surveys and censuses are invaluable assets for our readers. But, as foodservice customers are fond of reminding operators, you are only as good as your next meal—or in our case—your next innovation.
That’s why last year we sat down and asked ourselves, what are we missing? What research component are other companies using that we could duplicate to serve the unique needs of our audience?
From that discussion, we realized we were missing a culinary voice. Even though we ask menu-related questions of operators in our census and The Big Picture surveys, we generally haven’t been asking such questions of the very people who take the pulse of the industry when it comes to food trends.
As a result, if we want to tell you what the hottest culinary trends are, we have to share the results of other organizations’ surveys—many of which include the voices of only restaurant and hotel chefs. Some of the trends are things our readers could not embrace, either for cost reasons ($200 truffles) or because the idea is too esoteric for a cafeteria setting (culinary foams).
So, much like the process behind The Big Picture, we sat down and formed our own group of culinarians who could advise us of the biggest trends that have value for their customers.
The FoodService Director Chefs Council is the result. We have invited 50 chefs from non-commercial operations to be our culinary voice. They represent all of the major industry segments: business and industry, colleges and universities, elementary and secondary schools, healthcare institutions and senior living units. There is a mix of well-known veterans and rising culinary stars.
They are the people we will turn to first when we want information on culinary technique, style and ingredients. They will be the team we reach out to as sources for food-focused articles, and we may even tap some of them from time to time to share their expertise at events such as our annual MenuDirections conference.
More important, we will rely on the Chefs Council to help us craft an annual list of top food and culinary trends. Our readers deserve to know what non-commercial foodservice industry chefs believe are the ingredients, dishes and business trends to watch.
I am not knocking the lists put out each year by research companies such as Technomic or magazines such as Bon Appetit. Those trends can often prompt non-commercial chefs to think outside the box and strive to be more innovative. But we also want to be able to provide information and insight that is more reflective of the realities of non-commercial foodservice.
Later this year, we will publish our first survey of the council, outlining the culinary trends they’ve identified for 2016.
If you have questions you’d like to ask our council members, drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Together we can help shape the culinary standard for non-commercial foodservice, and perhaps even push that standard to another level.