My wife, Carole, Melanie Spratford, and I just returned from the 2014 Catersource Conference & Tradeshow in Las Vegas. After 5 days of attending programs, consulting, and speaking, a curious thing happened: I remembered what initially drew me to our industry; namely, great food, service, artistic satisfaction, and the excitement of bringing happiness to a lot of people.
Over the years, as I owned my own catering company and as I’ve consulted, coached, and led sales training programs for others, my focus has transitioned almost entirely from the aesthetic to the business side of our industry. Helping owners fashion plans for growth, accelerate sales, and improve operational and financial systems is the dull but necessary underside of our romantic industry. But, spending 5 days among thousands of highly passionate caterers was cool. There were incredible exchanges of ideas, fantastic new menu items, clever thematic concepts, and more. I believe strongly that, without the academics of running a business, artistic satisfaction cannot be realized. But I also believe that it’s important for each of us, especially during stressful times, to tap into the pleasures and the passions of our work. The Catersource Conference is an annual reminder of that passion. So, the lessons learned and the curious things that happened in Vegas won’t stay there. I’m carrying them with me.
I spent time with too many wonderful folks this week to mention each one, but it was, as always, a pleasure to see, from Catersource, Pauline Hoogmoed, Linda West, and Carl Sacks; Bill Pannhoff of B&B Catering; Jack Milan of Edibles by Jack; Bill Hansen of Bill Hansen Catering; Kevin and Larry Walter, and Ellen Harte of Tasty Catering; and all the great caterers from Chicago who somehow I only see when we’re in Vegas.
Lastly, I must acknowledge the absence of our dear friend and mentor, the late Mike Roman. Echoes of the Catering Guru’s wisdom were everywhere at the conference and his legacy lives on in the passion our industry continues to have for good food, great service, and exciting events.