MONTEREY, CA -- Rosalyn (Roz) Mallet, chair of the National Restaurant Association and chief executive officer of PhaseNext Hospitality in Plano, TX, joined Produce Marketing Association President and Chief Executive Officer Bryan Silbermann July 21 at the opening session of the PMA Foodservice Conference, here, to talk about the commonalities between the two organizations' objectives as they work to increase produce consumption in the foodservice sector.
"It seems to me that the restaurant and produce industry are both seeking answers to the same questions," Ms. Mallet said. "PMA and NRA have so much in common. We both represent an industry that is really a collection of industries, many of which are small businesses where success is based on the people wehire, the innovations we embrace and our connections with consumers. We are both about creating culinary experiences."
Ms. Mallet was enthusiastic about the opportunities for expanded use of produce in foodservice menus and is strongly supportive of the joint initiative launched three years ago by PMA and NRA to double consumption of produce in the foodservice sector by 2020. It is a goal that benefits the produce industry and the foodservice industry as well as consumers, she said.
In the foodservice sector, "fruits and vegetables make the difference for us" and "enable us to be creative," said Ms. Mallet, who has spent 35 years in the foodservice business.
Ms. Mallet talked about the Kids Live Well program, a joint initiative between NRA and Healthy Living, which has 25,000 participating restaurant locations. That initiative highlights the restaurant industry's commitment to offer healthful menu options for children, a goal achieved largely through increased inclusion of fruits and vegetables on menus.
She discussed various innovations and menu trends in foodservice, such as local grown ("one of the five most important trends in foodservice") and the increased popularity of restaurant branding in various institutional categories ranging from schools and universities to military bases.
Another trend she mentioned was "the rise of the social media restaurant," a non-traditional concept embraced by her company, PhaseNext Hospitality, in which the dining venue becomes an opportunity for social interaction.
Ms. Mallet said that she had participated in the PMA Foodservice Conference farm and plant tour in the Salinas, CA, area the previous day and gained a greater understanding of how vegetables are grown, harvested, packed and shipped. However, she said, the "real value" of the experience, for her, was witnessing "the passion and commitment" of those who grow the produce.
"Mann Packing, Taylor Farms and Ocean Mist, I thank you for the experience," she said. "You have redefined the produce experience for me. I will never look at the fruit and vegetables on my plate the same way again."
The partnership between NRA and PMA "will help us serve consumers better, she said.
Mr. Silbermann echoed that sentiment, saying, "The PMA and NRA partnership to increase produce consumption in foodservice has all the hallmarks of a remarkable story, as two large associations with diverse memberships [come] together with a mutual goal of increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables by restaurant patrons," he said. "Over the past couple of years, both of our associations have learned a great deal from one another, and we are looking forward to creating increased opportunities for collaboration in the future."
Mr. Silbermann spoke of "a new main character in our story -- the glocal [sic] consumer." That "funny sounding word" is used to describe a consumer who thinks globally but acts locally, he said, and this new type of consumer is "a powerful ally, critical to our success. The need to recognize both the challenges and the opportunities of building a connection with glocals is particularly important in foodservice, where their demand for convenience [and] global flavors, combined with a passionate focus on health and well being, is influencing dramatic changes in menus in literally every segment."
While "doubling produce consumption in foodservice in any economy is a daunting task," Mr. Silbermann said, "the good news is that after a rough couple of years, recession-weary consumers are returning to restaurants."