In our latest industry profile, we interview Deirdre Flynn, Vice President of NAFEM. Below, Deidre reveals the most exciting aspect of her position and what she feels sets foodservice operators apart from the competition.
R.W. Smith: People in the foodservice industry are often passionate about what they do. What is it about the business that inspires such stirring emotion?
Deirdre Flynn: I think it’s the people – the hospitality industry is filled with passionate, creative, engaging people – all focused on creating the best guest experience they possibly can at their operation. It’s an industry that brings people together!
RWS: You’re the Executive Vice President of NAFEM. What aspect of your job is your favorite?
DF: There are so many favorites; it’s hard to choose just one. The NAFEM Show is certainly a favorite – it’s just incredible to see the industry come together in one of the most progressive venues for foodservice professionals. About five years ago, NAFEM started doing Town Hall meetings with members around the country, and I really like that program, too. I love hitting the road, seeing members and talking to them in small group settings about how NAFEM can be the best it can be.
RWS: What are some of the greatest challenges facing foodservice operators as they try to attract new customers and achieve repeat business from existing patrons?
DF: I think their biggest challenge is how to do more with less. Despite economic conditions, you’ve got to work hard to deliver the same quality and meet that customers’ expectation every time. That’s a challenge for all of us!
RWS: Of today’s industry trends, which are most likely to have a lasting impact?
DF: I think today’s consumer is much more conscious and interested in where their food is from and how it is prepared. So, healthy, well-prepared foods (traceability from farm to plate), prepared with sustainable business practices – I think that’s here to stay.
RWS: What advice would you give to foodservice operators looking to creatively set themselves apart from the competition?
DF: Concentrate on what you do best and don’t get so fragmented that you muddy your brand. Your customer likes to know that they can count on you to deliver consistency and meet their expectations every time.
RWS: The very best dining experience that you’ve ever had — where were you and what made it so memorable?
DF: Just one? I’ve had the opportunity to have so many dining experiences from Singapore to Milan to Maui to Chicago and a lot of places in between. I can tell you one instance that made a lasting impression on my father – we went to a wonderful, high-end restaurant in Connecticut, where I grew up, for a family celebration when I was about 10 years old. You should have seen the look on his face when I asked if there was a tuna fish sandwich on the menu. Fortunately, my palette has matured since then!