WFF conference aims to build future leaders

More than 2,000 foodservice professionals met in Dallas this week to attend the Women’s Foodservice Forum Annual Leadership Development conference, which celebrates trailblazing efforts in gender equality and works to develop a new generation of female executives.

Carin Stutz, the outgoing WFF chair, and president and chief executive at fast-casual restaurant company Cosi Inc., opened the conference Sunday as the organization awarded members and supporters for their work both in foodservice and with the WFF.

On Monday, new WFF chair Lorna Donatone, chief operating officer and education market president at Sodexo, introduced keynote speaker David Novak, CEO at Yum! Brands Inc., and set the tone for the year ahead.

“WFF is poised and ready to help this amazing [foodservice] industry achieve dramatic results,” Donatone said. “This will be a banner year to drive people and organizations to aspire higher and achieve gender parity at the top. I am honored and ready to contribute to this goal as chair of WFF.”

The organization, founded more than 20 years ago, works to empower women, develop leadership talent and achieve gender parity throughout foodservice, both in the boardroom and through the ranks.

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During his keynote presentation, Novak said leaders are at their best when they allow others to feel comfortable enough to perform well.

“Leaders, especially female leaders, are best when they are true to who they are,” he said, “when they are comfortable in their own skin and make others feel comfortable.”

He said that regardless of gender, leaders need to make certain they can perform the job — and perform it well — above all else.

Other conference highlights included sessions on social media as a tool for personal branding, crisis management and the impact of private equity on foodservice.

“As our Annual Leadership Development Conference concludes, 2,300 foodservice professionals are returning to their jobs with the inspiration, knowledge and strategic connections to achieve more,” said Fritzi Woods, Women’s Foodservice Forum president and CEO. “It couldn’t have been possible without so many dedicated partners and organizations who share our commitment to making the foodservice industry one of choice.”

The WFF annual awards included:

SOAR Award to General Mills.
The sixth annual Jackie B. Trujillo Outstanding SOAR Award, which is sponsored by Yum! Brands, honors a foodservice company highly dedicated to attracting, educating and promoting women to the highest positions in the organization. The WFF honored General Mills for its strong development path for women, which leverages dozens of network and employee resource groups and provides coaching at all levels to ensure women can receive high-quality mentoring throughout their careers.

WFF Trailblazer Award to Pat Harris, vice president and global chief diversity officer, McDonald’s Corp.
The Trailblazer Award is given to an individual who shows dedication to improving the foodservice industry by supporting gender diversity. Harris is responsible for the development and implementation of diversity strategies throughout McDonald’s. Under her leadership, the WFF said, McDonald’s has been widely recognized for its commitment to inclusion and diversity.

WFF Leadership Award to Cheryl A. Bachelder, president, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen and CEO, AFC Enterprises Inc.
The Leadership Award is given each year to a woman executive in the foodservice industry who shows exceptional leadership qualities within her company and the industry at large. The WFF said Bachelder creates a work environment in which people can do their best. She believes in a passionate, purposeful approach to work where the focus is on coaching and developing people to be leaders with competence and character.

WFF Volunteer of the Year Award to Karen Williams, executive director, strategy implementation, Applebee’s Services, a division of DineEquity Inc.
The Volunteer of the Year is presented to a WFF volunteer who is highly active in the organization and shows effort above and beyond expectations. The WFF cited Williams’ long history of supporting local and national charitable organizations. She currently serves on the Finance Committee of the Susan G. Komen Foundation national board and is a past member of the board of directors for The Family Place and Head Start of Greater Dallas. She is an active member of the WFF, where she is proud to have contributed to the organization’s strategic and leadership development agendas.

Contact Sarah Lockyer at [email protected] [4].
Follow her on Twitter: @slockyerNRN [5]