Mark Freeman, Principal Senior Manager - Global Dining Services
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing corporate foodservice and workplace hospitality in today’s business climate?
The climate in today’s hospitality industry is constantly changing and it will continue to be ever changing. One of the next challenges that our industry will be addressing has to do with food transparency (where the food comes from) and educating our customers about healthier eating. It is no secret that the diet in the US is causing some alarming health issues in our growing population. Our industry feeds at least one, and in some locations, two or three meals per day to corporate America. If you think about it, our chefs may actually prepare more weekly meals for our customers than they prepare for themselves at home. We have a responsibility to educate them about healthy eating, proper preparation and the value of eating the right foods. Education is the key and it should start in the workplace. In doing so we can begin to reverse the growing trend of obesity, heart disease, hypertension and so on. The education process should include an understanding of where the food comes from, how it is treated, altered or grown, and what is happening to the farmer who grows the food. In my opinion, if we as an industry begin to educate our customers, they can then take it into their homes and communities to save future lives. Big responsibility but it starts with us.
In what ways has the association grown/stayed consistent since your Presidency?
I feel that it has grown over the last few years due to the diligence of the leadership and the board of directors. Membership is up and excitement around the society seems to be at an all-time high. We are filling the needs of our membership better than we have in many years. Our investment in the SHFM Locals has paid off and filled the needs of the membership in local markets. Because we have a strong strategic plan and motivated leaders, I’m sure this will continue into the future.
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
I think it was a very busy time during my presidency. We added the “H” to our name, built the strategic pillars for the multi-year plan and developed an environment for change that has provided growth to the society. Even though it was a very busy year I wouldn’t change any of it as it offered me the opportunity to network with some of the most powerful and talented people in our industry. I gained so many skills in the process of encouraging and directing our volunteers, as well as in figuring out the complexities of coordinating incredibly busy people with varying passions in the best way to get the job done. And most of all, I gained deep and sincere friendships that have lasted, and will last forever. I encourage anyone to consider getting more involved. It seems odd to say, but you will get much more out of it than you will ever put into it. Jump!
How has your professional role changed since your 2012 - 2013 year of Presidency?
The skills I gained as president have given me the confidence to step into things that I never would have considered stepping into in the past. During my presidency I had the opportunity to represent the members and the board through publications, speaking engagements and personal appearances. What I learned during a fabulous year allowed me to feel comfortable in situations which, prior to my presidency, would have seemed daunting. Since I have left the office I have had opportunities such as speaking at the USA pavilion of the World Expo in Milan, Italy, driving conversations with the Jamie Oliver group in London and even representing my dining program internally to some very powerful leaders within our company. Handling these situations comes easier now due to my experiences as president.
What is your most fond memory from that year?
I had a blast at the conference in Bonita Springs, Florida. It was the culmination of what I had experienced during the whole year. Friends and colleagues coming together to learn, grow and have some fun was what my year was all about. The board, committee chairs and Management Company worked hard throughout the year to help the society move into the future and when it came time to celebrate the success, we did. I hope everyone had as much fun as I did!!!