Q&A Barbara Kane

Barbara Kane, President of the Society for Foodservice Management (SFM) sat down with Total Food Service to discuss her extensive career in Foodservice and some of the major changes going on in the industry.


How did you get into the Foodservice Industry?
I’ve always been in the hospitality industry; starting my career with Marriott Hotels and moving from operations into the supplier side of the business. The operations experience gave me a great perspective on how to meet the needs of our customers. Like many in our industry, I also changed jobs but stayed in the business. Starting my career at Sara Lee I learned the nuances of coffee and then came to Ecolab to learn about cockroaches! Needless to say it was never boring. Staying in foodservice for 26 years is based on the passion we “foodies” have for our industry. There are unique challenges associated with foodservice that can’t be found in any other industry.  It’s those challenges that make our industry interesting!

What is your agenda and priorities for your term as incoming president of SFM?
The overarching goal is to create value for our members. Value may be different for each member so we will focus on building quality programming that mixes old with new; whether it’s technology, networking or membership.

The key is to pull from the collective energy and synergy which comes from our members shared and mutual interests and needs.
Another priority is to utilize a variety of public relation efforts to let the foodservice industry as a whole know about SFM and the great work they do to educate and connect its members.

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What does SFM bring to its members?
SFM brings its members a unique opportunity to learn about our industry through educational content and networking with other on-site foodservice professionals.
We offer a variety of Opportunities to share mutual challenges and work as a team to explore a rapidly evolving business segment, onsite dining. Members can utilize our national conference, critical issues conference, regional/local networking events and our new website (offering communities for all members and a Body of Knowledge section) offer a broader spectrum of what’s going on in the industry.

What are your goals for the upcoming conference in Philadelphia?
The goal for me personally is to listen and learn, meet as many people as possible and truly understand the needs of the members.  As President-elect this will help establish the foundation for the future, while welcoming the new, thanking those who have been there from the beginning and solicit as much feedback as possible. At each conference I always set a goal to meet at least 20 new people, introduce half of those to other members, and solve at least one current issue a customer is experiencing.

What are the major changes that you have seen in the industry?
There are so many major changes that the B&I industry has seen in the past 10 years, but the evolving role of the client liaison seems to be the most impactful. Client Liaisons no longer manage just the foodservice aspect of their corporations. Many have increased their role to include functions such as media and AV, conference center operations and mailroom management. SFM therefore must evolve with the roles of the client liaison and increase our offerings to include these different functions.

From an Association perspective I would have to say the changes in information is sharing through technology. In a challenging economy this is even more important. We need to adapt so all members have availability to programming both in-person and virally. The Associations that make these changes will flourish, those that don’t will struggle. SFM understands the importance of diverse delivery of content and will stay strong and continue to grow.

What are some of the common goals shared by Ecolab and SFM?
Ecolab and the Society for Foodservice Management are both organizations with strong, diverse and passionate cultures. They share many common goals. Both strive to provide professional development for associates/members through collaboration, research and education. Both organizations appreciate innovation and encourage creativity. Ecolab and SFM both care about providing value and want to deliver the best possible experience for those they serve. There is a strong sense of pride within both organizations, and a commitment to ensuring that the services and products offered contribute to the best possible solution.

B&I seems to battle through the concept of “self-operated” and contracted operations…  what role does each of them play?
In today’s world every function of an organization explores the trade-off of “outsource versus insource.” Our goal is to help all members come together and explore the trade-offs of each. Each member organization must do what is best for them individually. Our goal at SFM is to offer the tools members need to educate both self-operators and contractors on all industry information.

I am sure many may wonder, with an associate member as President, how I might view this area. I come from a unique position in that Ecolab does not ask for a decision to insource versus outsource. Therefore I hope to bring neutrality to this subject and yet create a forum to explore the considerations.

Great lineup of award winners at this year’s conference, what are your thoughts on some of their accomplishments?
I say the same thing every year, but it’s true. We are blessed with a base of members that truly believe in giving back to the Association and this year is no different. Our Spirit Award winner is Damian Monticello with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida. Damian has been on our Conference Planning Committee the past two years and will step into the role of Conference Chair next year in Las Vegas. He is a chef and is also trained in event planning, so it was a natural fit for him. His enthusiasm for SFM is contagious!

Andrew Shakman, President of LeanPath, is the recipient of the Leadership Award.  The Directors’ Award for Leadership recognizes an individual whose work on behalf of SFM and the on-site foodservice industry has resulted in the demonstration of outstanding leadership qualities. The Bob Pacifico Award is a fairly new award within SFM (this is our 5th winner) that recognizes an Associate Member. This year’s winner is Jerry White with Plate Magazine. Jerry has won many SFM awards over the years, but this one holds a special place in the hearts of anyone that was blessed to have known Bob. Jerry follows other industry greats such as Rod Collins, Dick Hynes, Scott Siers and Charlene Goff. As an Associate Member I am so proud of what all our Associate Members do for SFM. The Richard Ysmael Award, named after one of founding members (who touch many members hearts over the years) is Tom Newcomb with Corporate Dining. Tom has offered the support of Corporate Dining each year to the incoming President. He shows such dedication to this Association and is truly deserving of this award.

Seems to still be a big push towards healthy eating by membership and yet many members need to appeal to a broader constituency, where do you see that heading?
It’s an ever-present challenge and opportunity. The goal for SFM is to show our members how to offer healthy alternatives that taste great. The focus should not be on “healthy” but on great tasting food that just happens to be good for you. It’s about offering a variety of options. Wellness can be tricky; this is an excellent example of a topic we can explore as a society and bring together ideas from all the members.