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Aaron M. WeissAssistant Vice President with
elite studio
| e

As a new younger member of SHFM, what brought you to our association?
Right away the SHFM association presented itself to me as a truly connected network within our industry. I had tried the waters of various associations. Many felt like a sea full of fish going after a bite of small bait. SHFM was quite the opposite. The diversity within the group almost seemed to have hand-picked proportions. The different events offered members of all levels the stage and environment to get to showcase and grow relationships with one another. I immediately felt both welcomed and interested in immersing myself within the SHFM organization. 
What could our association do to better attract members of your generation?
The workforce of our industry is now more than ever being flooded with young individuals looking to dive head-first into their careers and make a name for themselves. I know SHFM is making strides in attracting the new generation to the association even before they enter the workplace, marketing to students of relevant majors and fields of study. This is a good play. We’ve learned thru SHFM Local and annual events and seminars how to market our products to appeal to the already flooded Millennial population and up-and-coming Generation Z population, through strategic social media marketing and hands on experiences. These same channels and strategies would benefit in recruiting new younger members. The events and gatherings will speak for themselves. It’s about getting their foot in the door.

Why would you recommend SHFM to your peers?
SHFM is a terrific channel to make a name for both yourself and your company. However, it’s not just about the networking and relationship benefits that come along with being involved. SHFM expends a great deal of its time and energy to putting together captivating educational seminars and events that actually apply to our day-to-day businesses. They assemble incredible lineups of speakers and panelists to share stories and educate us on certain topics. I attended the local DC event earlier this year. The topic was all about Millennials and Gen Z-ers and how the workplace is changing to adapt and cater to them and their very specific and unique characteristics. I myself am a Millennial, and frankly I was floored at how the panelists were able to verbalize so accurately the ways of, well, me! It was actually quite eye-opening. SHFM always selects the most relevant and useful topics to focus on and delivers them in a way that interests the members. When the biggest of names, such as Danny Meyer, Marcus Samuelsson, and Marc Forgione, are all speaking at SHFM’s National Conference, you know it’s the place to be! 

How do you see the industry shifting towards a younger audience?
I think that the shift is well underway, and inevitable for those who haven’t jumped on the bandwagon yet. My firm, elite | studio e, is a design and build firm, with a strong focus in creating that new corporate dining experience. More and more we hear our clients throwing words such as “collaboration,” “wellness,” “lifestyle,” and “technology” to create, well, a collaborative environment that uses technology and promotes a lifestyle of wellness. And let’s face it, that is all to cater to the traits of the younger generations. From the way food menus are being prepared and served, to the way work and dining spaces are being redefined, rediscovered, and now combined, our industry is in a way being overturned to adapt to the ways of younger generations. 
What path did you follow to get where you are today?
I was introduced to the industry and began working for elite | studio e about 9 years ago, while studying Journalism at both SUNY Buffalo and SUNY Old Westbury. Although I had not been studying foodservice or hospitality in the classroom, I was very quickly immersing my interests in the subject outside of the classroom. I realized quickly that this was an industry was one I wanted to grow within. Unlike some, our industry is always evolving. For us here at elite | studio e, that means taking a fresh approach to every one of our designs in working with our clients to help them grow and transform with this ever-changing industry of foodservice and hospitality.