My first food job was in a restaurant in college. It was a great transitional job. I wish I had known then what a great career it could be.
I started a consulting company after being at a couple of other organizations. McDonald’s was a big first client, as well as TGI Fridays and Carlson. I ended up on the board of WFF through McDonald’s. My 30 years in the leadership-development space focused around women and business, so the WFF was an absolute sweet spot for all of my talents to come together.
The food industry is all about connections, relationships, and competencies. It’s different from any other industry that I’ve worked in. When you talk to someone, probably within 15 minutes of that conversation you can connect back to somebody that somebody knows. I really see it as an industry of opportunity where you can come in no matter where you are, start your career, build your competencies, build your leadership, and then gather a variety of experiences. After 30–40 years, you’ve had a rewarding career but with a lot of varied experiences—and you don’t have to get bored, because it’s something different every day.
We have always been known for our signature WFF conference, which draws more than 3,000 people. That’s great, but we also want to work with those frontline people. Last year, we kicked off our leadership development workshops, which toured 12 cities.
I think for women, we have to be the solution. How can we be those solutions for business? How can we be at the table with groundbreaking solutions? What I would say to women is don’t limit yourself; be willing to step up; take on a different role you’ve never done before; challenge yourself. Be competent, because right now it’s all hands on deck and all ideas welcome.
Food not only feeds our bodies, but it also feeds our spirit. As restaurant leaders, we need to drive the conversation that this is an exciting industry. There are opportunities no matter where you want to go, and we are poised to recruit, develop, and drive talent.
Next month, the WFF will hold its annual conference. Here’s the skinny:
Event: WFF Annual Leadership Development Conference
Date: April 2–5
Location: Orlando World Center Marriott in Orlando
Theme: Ignite Leadership with Speed and Purpose
Attendees: About 3,000 women and men at all career levels and from all areas of the food industry
Keynote speakers: Edie Weiner, presidentand CEO of The Future Hunters; Juliet Funt, CEO of WhiteSpace at Work; New York Times best-selling author Joseph Grenny; and finance guru and best-selling author Suze Orman
More details: aldc.wff.org