SHFM Insight
Mike Barclay, President
Southern Foodservice Management

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing corporate foodservice and workplace hospitality in today’s business climate?

An interesting and pertinent-to-us-all first question. It’s also one where it seems majority of our industry feel the biggest challenges in 2016 will be the increasing evolution of menu preferences and the hyper-advancements in technologies. For me, those two are certainly among our primary focuses for 2016. However, while I agree with those points, I personally do not see either of them moving ahead of what has been for many years the corporate dining and workplace hospitality industry’s biggest challenge: human resources.

Specifically, recruiting, hiring, training and developing dedicated staff members who are committed to the fundamentals like quality meals and excellent customer service. And as we all know, that challenge resides solely with the leadership of those organizations who provide corporate dining and workplace hospitality. I could write a book on this one, but will respect your time and limit my response to those two underlined words for now.

In what ways has the association grown/stayed consistent since your Presidency?

This is one which I unfortunately must confess is difficult for me to answer. Reason being, I allowed myself to become so immersed in our business that I lost solid connection with SHFM for a few years. That was a mistake I was able to correct somewhat in recent years. But, then in 2015 I experienced a bout of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever that, unfortunately, caused me to miss another SHFM national conference (I will be at SHFM in Arizona this year). I do feel like my most recent interactions with SHFM have provided a solid / updated impression of today’s membership and their strong positive feelings about the association. That would be the primary characteristic that I can say for sure is consistent with what was clearly the number one trait of SFM before, during and after my term.

Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?

Yes and I believe any association leader who takes a look in the rearview mirror would likely see at least a few things he or she could’ve / would’ve done differently and hopefully better. My primary changes would have been related to SFM membership growth efforts and further strengthening of SFM’s national identity. Overall, my feelings upon completion of the term were ones of honor and pride for our association and its continued evolution. On a more personal note and in hindsight, the one change I clearly would have made is - I would’ve slowed myself down just a bit and enjoyed even more each SFM event and all the interactions with fellow members.

How has your professional role changed since your 1987 - 1988 year of Presidency?

I’m fortunate to report my professional role has changed significantly and I attribute much of that positive advancement to valuable time spent on the SFM Board of Directors, committees and in officer positions. I’ve always felt the experience of working with people like Richard Ysmael, Deanna Hormel, Ed Sirhal, Lease Plimpton (and many others) fueled my interest in taking our company to national status. And, I learned so much about business leadership and inspiring others that I really don’t believe I would’ve ever earned my current CEO status with Southern without SHFM.   

What is your most fond memory from that year?

Another easy one to answer: completing what I felt was another step forward for SFM, then being able to hand the gavel to a great friend, and one of our most respected Presidents ever, Mr. Neil Reyer.