Member Spotlight
Sonia Garrido, Whitson's Culinary Group 
This month’s Member Spotlight features Sonia Garrido, Marketing Associate/Public Relations Manager at Whitsons Culinary Group. 

How did you get your start in the industry? 
Five years ago, I started working at Whitsons Culinary Group. My background was on chemical manufacturing, so foodservice was a big change. However, growing up in Peru where we are all natural born foodies, I have embraced this industry and learned so much from my peers.   

Which hospitality and foodservice service do you oversee and how does SHFM help you balance these responsibilities? 
I don’t directly oversee the foodservice service; however, as part of Whitsons’ Marketing team, I collaborate closely with Operations which gives me a great insight of  the challenges they face every day and the ability to help develop marketing plans that fit their needs. SHFM has given me the opportunity to connect with other people that might be facing the same challenges and have come up with different solutions. Also, I love attending SHFM events and learn all about the new trends going on in the industry. 

What do you see as the most important trend in the industry?
Digital has become such an essential part of our life that we expect everything to be in the digital realm. This is no different when it comes to foodservice. Online and mobile ordering not only ensures speed of service and accuracy, but also provides an added convenience to the customers (especially Millennials who are more likely to text and use apps than use the phone to talk). 

What could our industry be doing more of to attract a younger audience?
I believe the use of digital marketing, such mobile apps and social media, is key to attracting (and keeping!) a younger audience. Millennials are used to be able to access information instantly and spend a great deal of time in different kind of devices. That said, in order to achieve this, there needs to be a content strategy behind it. You cannot just send random messages, especially in social media, that don’t provide useful information. The key word is (YOU)tility! 

What advice would you share with a young professional considering the industry?
I would tell them that it is a very exciting time to join the foodservice industry. Food is one of the top topics of discussion all over the world, from culinary trends, sustainable food sourcing and health concerns and it is not going away anytime soon!