Rob Gebhardt 
Manager, Dining and Hospitality Services at JLL

You’ve been involved with SHFM since 2011 – what is your favorite aspect of being a member?
What I enjoy most about SHFM is the networking and comradery with my fellow hospitality professionals. The knowledge base that exists within this organization is amazing and of such great value. It is also great to have such a wide range of members covering so many different aspects of the industry. This resource bases comes in very handy throughout the year.

What do you see as the most important trend in the industry? 
Meeting the needs of a multi-generational and ethnically diverse work force whose needs and expectations continue to broaden. The one common denominator is that technology remains at the forefront and operators need to ensure they are keeping pace with enhancements. Equipment technology in the kitchen translates into speed and production efficiencies, while in the front of the house those same improvements can mean a greater point of service experience and improved checkout process, allowing for staffing model changes and reduced customer waittimes.

How did you get your start in the industry?
I began my career as a culinary professional, graduating from the CIA in the early 90s, and after 15 years of hands-on cooking I started my move into management and operations. As early as I can remember, I had a passion for food and always envisioned my self being in or around the kitchen. For those who know how much I love to eat, this should be no surprise.

Which SHFM event has been your favorite to attend?
Although I enjoy attending the national conferences, I find the most value at the critical issues event each spring. This single day session is packed with relevant topics, focused on current trends, and tied together with great networking.

What advice would you share with a young professional considering the industry?
The hospitality industry is such a large and varied business with great growth potential. Find a good mentor who can help you navigate the wide array of choices and don’t be afraid to move around. Learn about the culinary side, experience self-op and contract management, consider working on café construction projects and study equipment trends and selections. Once you have chosen your career path never stop learning. Take advantage of every opportunity to broaden your knowledge and remember that in an industry focused on serving other no task is too small or insignificant.