The 2022 FEDA Annual Conference in San Diego is the Perfect Setting to Connect and Learn

By Tim O'Connor

Having given the foodservice equipment and supplies industry its first chance to reconnect in the pandemic era at the 2021 FEDA Annual Conference in Nashville, FEDA is ready to go even bigger and deliver more of what members want with its 2022 conference program.

The 2022 FEDA Annual Conference will be held Sept. 20-23 in San Diego at the InterContinental Hotel, which maintains the amenities and aura of a resort destination while offering the unmatched food and entertainment scene that “America’s Finest City” is known for. After spending their day diving into industry challenges and learning about new solutions, conference attendees will be able to unwind with their colleagues over a hot plate and cold drinks in the nearby Gaslamp Quarter, stand in awe at the size of the USS Midway aircraft carrier or see the San Diego Padres circle the bases at Petco Park.

“San Diego offers a real mix of experiences for attendees,” FEDA CEO Tracy Mulqueen says. “Our conference guests will enjoy the gorgeous weather and warming sunshine Southern California is know for, while being at the heart of a lively, beautiful and walkable city filled with incalculable ways to spend their free time.”

Attendees will get their first taste of the serene environment at the welcome reception and opening dinner on the hotel’s renowned  Lane Field, the former home of the Pacific Coast League Padres, a precursor to the modern-day MLB team. The outdoor setting should prove conducive to renewing connections while live music from the Ben Mallare band promises to energize the evening and get attendees up and dancing in the cool sea breeze.

That opening night energy should put attendees in a relaxed state of mind where they are ready to meet with industry peers, visit product booths and prepare for a week of learning from leaders in advocacy, sales and foodservice operations. “We’re molding a creative atmosphere where dealers can prioritize business and spend time together to share their experiences during the past year,” Mulqueen says.

Incorporating Member Feedback

The response to the operator focus of the 2021 FEDA Annual Conference was positive, as members indicated their desire to hear directly from customers about how they view the industry and how distributors can help their businesses succeed. As such, FEDA will continue to highlight operator needs at the 2022 conference as well as corporate keynote speakers and a surprise celebrity guest on the last day of the conference, who will share their perspectives and insights into the issues facing the industry.

Expanding Networking Opportunities, Including Golf

FEDA is also taking member feedback into account as it develops other activities, especially in regard to even more networking opportunities. Golf will make a grand return in 2022 with an expedition to Torrey Pines, one of the country’s most scenic and celebrated courses. A social outing to one of San Diego’s premier nighttime venues is also planned. Within the conference site, there will be networking lounges where attendees can meet with each other, catch up on emails or simply recharge in a room overlooking the San Diego skyline. Members will also have a chance to mingle with one another at the early arrivers reception, the Young Industry Leaders reception and the Last Night on the Bay, a casual closing night dinner on an outdoor patio featuring views of the sun setting over the Pacific Ocean.

“The FEDA conference has historically and continues to be one of the most important networking events for the industry,” Mulqueen notes. “Principals and managers from both dealers and manufacturers use their free time at the conference to catch up, make new connections and share information about their companies and products with one another. Because many members attend the conference year after year, they reinforce these relationships, some of which have lasted decades and will endure for decades more.”

Enhancing Programs

Just as FEDA’s members strengthen and grow their relationships with each other, the association is evolving some of its most popular programs to address member requests. The Gold Awards Presentation will move from an opening night event to a mid-week breakfast event and the conference will return to presenting an opening night networking reception and dinner.

Likewise, the Partner Exchange Roundtables are returning next year with some changes. Rather than focusing on a single topic such as supply chain challenges, the small group discussions will be expanded to dive into a variety of industry issues. The scope of the Advocacy Council Presentation will also grow larger as the importance of business and supply chain advocacy becomes increasingly imperative. Glenn Spencer, senior vice president of the employment policy division for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, will return to share the latest on labor and other business legislation under consideration. He will be joined by other business policy advocates, including leaders of restaurant associations, to discuss the current legislative climate and how good policy can prevent some of the issues impacting distributors.

One of the 2021 conference’s most popular speakers, Paul Reilly, author and president of Tom Reilly Training, will be back. Attendees of the 2021 event were impressed with Reilly’s presentations about how distributors can compete on value in an Amazon world and appreciated that he spoke from real-world sales experience. Next year’s topic is sure to be just as timely and impactful. “Paul has a very modern, substantive approach to selling in today’s marketplace that is truly unique in our industry,” Mulqueen explains.

The younger professionals in attendance will look forward to the special session for FEDA Young Industry Leaders (YIL). The program will feature a mix of individuals from FEDA’s YIL group and executive-level leaders examining a leadership development topic. “The YIL session at the 2022 FEDA Annual Conference is a key component of the association’s larger mission to develop future industry leaders,” says FEDA Director of Meetings and Operations Erin Bedell. “The insights, approaches and personal stories shared by participants are always inspiring and give session attendees fuel for how to think about their own leadership journey.”

One of the most significant additions to the 2022 program is continued training on the FEDA Data Repository. Many dealers and manufacturers will be adept at using the repository by the time the conference begins next September, but this session will build on feedback from members throughout the year and introduce new phases of work incorporated in 2022. These new features and capabilities will make the repository an even more powerful tool for the industry.  “We are excited to share more details on how each program will leave attendees with valuable information they can use in their businesses, and how the conference will help them make lasting connections that lead to solutions,” Mulqueen says. “We look forward to seeing our members and industry partners in sunny San Diego.