Over the course of the past two years the hospitality and foodservice industries have faced numerous questions and challenges due to the pandemic. One of the major questions is, how are food service operators and hospitality managers meeting the changing needs of their clients?
With an eye towards answering those questions, the Society for Hospitality and Foodservice Management (SHFM) has appointed Rob Gebhardt as their new president. Gebhardt, who also serves as the Director of Customer Experience Services at JLL, has worked in the workplace foodservice and hospitality industries for decades managing foodservice operations for both national and global corporations.
“I chose JLL because what I saw was tremendous opportunity, and I had great respect for the services they were providing their clients,” said Gebhardt. “JLL was just starting to dabble in workplace hospitality, so the opportunity was very appealing to me. JLL started as a real estate services company that mainly focused on investment banking and land services, property management, and multitenant spacing. Roughly fifteen years ago the idea of integrated facility management really started to grow and JLL has become a leader in the space. Companies are seeking a partner to help manage and operate their facilities, so that they can focus on their core offering.”
Through his position at JLL, Gebhardt has had the ability to see how the pandemic has affected workplace hospitality and foodservice. “The office function has changed and will continue to change,” said Gebhardt. “The purpose of the office will be much different than it was before the pandemic. The office will now be about community, and it will be about alignment with the culture of that company. JLL is in a unique position of working with over 600 different clients and seeing 600 different company cultures, allowing us to see what is important for each client. The office is not going away, but the way the office is designed is going to change. The way the office is utilized is absolutely going to change and what employees expect from the office is changing.”
In terms of specific changes made to workplace foodservice operations, Gebhardt says that it is all about adapting to what employees are now accustomed to. “Hours of operation are now different. We can no longer look at a breakfast period with a break then a lunch period, with maybe some evening services in a three-shift manufacturing environment,” said Gebhardt. “There now must be services throughout the day, with these services addressing all nutritional and healthy eating initiatives that were under way before COVID. We also have to think what the impact is on the employee coming into the office. These employees are leaving behind something they have grown very accustomed to over the last two years. They had to support their children in a different way than they used to, they had to support their parents. What that means is that they are leaving their home to go to the office with all these distractions and concerns. It is our job to ease some of these burdens to help get employees back in the office.”
As for his goals as the new President of SHFM, Gebhardt is focusing on helping the industry grow and adapt post-COVID. “Becoming president is humbling, especially when you look at the list of the last forty presidents, the roles that they have played and the positions that they have held in the industry,” said Gebhardt. “It is also very rewarding to know that thirty plus years of my time in the industry is being recognized in this way. I am very excited to be able to bring forward different ideas, different thoughts and my experience in the industry.” Gebhardt continued, “the first major undertaking on my agenda is to make sure that the organization’s strategic plan continues to play out, with a strong focus on diversity and inclusion, in addition to a strong focus on sustainability. There will also be an emphasis on our rising young professionals, with the goal of not only building up this organization, but the field of workplace hospitality in general. One of the new initiatives I hope to bring forward is focused on the return to offices. My goal is to bring awareness to what is going on, including a better understanding of current and future trends, as well as the role that we are going to play as an industry in moving the world forward.”
In taking on the role of President, Gebhardt also aims to educate young people and young professionals on the wide array of options in the hospitality industry, and on how SHFM can help them to enter and grow in the industry.
SHFM’s members oversee all facets of corporate foodservice and workplace hospitality, from cafés and retail operations to catering, vending, fitness centers, childcare services and conference planning and support, including audio/visual services. SHFM represents the most influential professionals who directly provide these services and oversee purchasing decisions for hundreds of business campuses and millions of employees.
The Society for Hospitality and Foodservice Management is the pre-eminent national association serving the needs and interests of executives in the corporate foodservice and workplace hospitality industries. Our principal role is to enhance the ability of our members to achieve career and business objectives in an ethical, responsible and professional climate. For more information, please visit their website.