HMG+’s Karen DiPeri Interviews Industry
Leaders Victoria Vega and Rob Gordon
Understanding the trend in the hospitality and staffing world is one way to make sure your business is on the right track. To help you identify them, Karen DiPeri, President of HMG+, rounded up the top leaders from the Society of Hospitality and Food Management (SHFM) during the Critical Issues Conference hosted by American Express to share their voices during this changing tide in the industry.
The Society for Hospitality and Foodservice Management serves the needs and interests of executives in the corporate foodservice and workplace hospitality industries and helps achieve career and business objectives.
SHFM outgoing President Victoria Vega and incoming President Rob Gordon sat down with Karen to share their perspectives on hospitality today, and the critical issues facing the industry.
Victoria Vega raised the bar of service during her tenure making significant strides in the growth of SHFM. She is the Vice President of Operations for Unidine Corporation’s Corporate Culinary Group and Senior Living Culinary Group, and has had an extensive career in the workplace hospitality industry.
“The SHFM experience is transformative and can even be transportative for your career. SHFM helps all members leverage the opportunity to lean on the energy of others, identify resources to help achieve goals and seek the resources to rapidly solve hospitality challenges. I continue to encourage all members and sponsors to get involved, stay engaged, share their expertise and have a voice in the changing landscape of onsite foodservice. We cannot forget that as students of this industry we all need to stand ready to absorb the continuous learning and thrive by sharing those best practices. SHFM is the conduit to deliver that value.” ~ Victoria Vega
How do you define Hospitality?
Victoria: Hospitality is about manifesting your natural DNA as a servant leader. It’s about how we deliver and passionately define ourselves, our companies, and brands with acute customer service. It’s about our drive to make defining moments part of the experience that our guests, customers, residents and clients have with our product or service. It’s about elevating the quality of the food, rapture of the service, tones of the décor and cushions the experience in a halo of
What were the critical issues you addressed as president of SHFM?
Victoria: It was important to send the message that SHFM is anticipatory and tactical in our approach to the evolving professional and educational needs of the workplace hospitality industry. Working with our executive leadership, we crafted a three-year strategic plan aligning our mission with mega issues challenging onsite operations.
The major platform initiative for my year as President was the re-launch of the SHFM Diversity Council. Fostered by a need for unity and connectedness, and breaking down barriers to provide equal access and inclusion, these are vital to the enhancement and longevity of this society. SHFM is proud to promote and socially support the changing composition of our membership.
Rob Gordon has a pulse on the needs of the industry and as the incoming President of SHFM he’ll be setting the standards as he leads the organization. He is the Vice President of WorkPlace Services at American Express, overseeing dining operations, conference & audio visual services, as well as employee amenities such as back-up child care centers, gyms/fitness rooms, and concierge services globally.
“As the incoming president I am focused on delivering solutions that meet the needs of our members. I’m a champion for other people. I’m the cheerleader for our leadership and a supporter for our members. I’m looking to create a culture by the members for the members. It’s the help from my SHFM team that’s really pushing the needle on initiatives and innovation.”
~ Rob Gordon
How do you define Hospitality?
Rob: Hospitality is having genuine care for the customer, group, or team member. It sounds rather simple to simply understand customer needs and show care and respect for the customer. It’s delivering a kindhearted service. The big piece of that is knowing who your customer is.
In my world now, my customers are our colleagues or our internal team. The people that day in and day out deliver the very best service and experience.
What are the Amex philosophy and implementation for hospitality locally and worldwide?
Rob: Amex gives a global perspective to hospitality providing a world-class service for our customer and employees. They are at the center of everything we do, we design around them to provide unique and memorable experiences.
What are the critical issues you will be addressing as the new president of SHFM?
Rob: I’ll continue to prioritize the Diversity Council’s mission to foster an environment that embraces diversity and inclusion. We want membership to reflect the markets and people we serve. American Express created Small Business Saturday as a way to celebrate and discover small businesses. In a similar way, SHFM can expand their membership to include smaller businesses, and minority-owned firms in the hospitality sphere. Having a truly engaged, diverse membership with energy and vision will help keep SHFM relevant and a catalyst for creating new leaders.
Our Young Professionals and Rising Star program is very successful and has infused the organization with fresh ideas about the future. It takes courage for a young person, maybe right out of college to get involved with a professional organization. But it’s that same courage that is necessary for leadership. Our goal is to build an inclusive community through education, mentoring and networking. We realize that developing our next group of leaders is critical to the sustainability and vibrancy of SHFM and the
What are your plans to motivate young professionals to be active in SHFM?
Rob: SHFM’s Rising Star program provides complimentary membership, registration and travel to events and conferences. I think that we’ve started a solid initiative and we’re starting to see a whole new group of leaders through this program. Young people appreciate and are eager to take part in professional development. So I’d like to explore more ways to provide that to them. The SHFM Foundation has raised and donated $640,000 over 11 years for scholarships and research to students to pave the way for a successful career in hospitality and food service. That’s reaching students before they are entering the workforce. That’s a great program and I’d love to see the Foundation continue to reach ambitious and well deserving students with internships and scholarships.
To learn more about SHFM and becoming a member,
Karen DiPeri is known as a community builder for the industry. She is President of HMG Plus, Inc., a specialized provider of hospitality staffing solutions headquartered in Manhattan, the marketing co-chair for the Society for Hospitality and Foodservice Management (SHFM). She is the President and a Board Member of the New York Staffing Association (NYSA) and an alumnus of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program. She has been honored as a SmartCEO New York Brava and awards include the SHFM Spirit Award Winner and recognized for three years by Total Food Service as a Top Woman in Metro New York Foodservice & Hospitality.