Foodservice Equipment Reports

Why Mike Whiteley’s Run As NAFEM President Really Mattered

Full disclosure: I am not unbiased when it comes to Mike Whiteley, v.p. of sales and marketing at Hatco Corp. He’s a very good friend and in the more than two-and-a-half decades we’ve hung out together in this business, we’ve had way too much fun, dammit! That’s been his tag line for the past two years as he, former past-President Tom Campion, incoming President Kevin Fink, and the entire board have made attracting more young people to the equipment and supplies business a key focus of the association.

But the emphasis on recruiting talent to the E&S industry is only one of Mike’s achievements during his two-year tenure as NAFEM president. Equally important has been his ability to help promote and cajole the key allied associations in the business—FEDA, MAFSI, FCSI and CFESA—into what many, including the leaders at the other associations, perceive as the best cooperative relationship we’ve seen in the 38 years I’ve covered foodservice and foodservice E&S. 

Mike’s the perfect spokesman for attracting young folks into the business. He heads sales and marketing at Hatco, a company, as most of us know, with a very long tradition of fun and games going back to long-time President David Hatch and former sales executives such as Bill Citti and Rick Anger. He’s whip-smart and sarcastic, loves food, beverages and foodservice in all their forms, speaks French and a bit of Mandarin, and can josh anyone out of his or her socks. When we hired our daughter Emma last year, the first place we sent her was Hatco University. We wanted her to see how much fun this business can be. Many of you have sent your young employees to Sturgeon Bay, Wis., for the same reason.

Of course, Mike has done a lot more about talent recruitment than run around for two years telling people to “Have fun, dammit!” NAFEM has been very serious about it commitment to the New Orleans Culinary and Hospitality Institute, its long-term commitment to an endowed professorship at the Culinary Institute of America, and a new initiative to work with local community colleges to help train and attract young talent in a host of different disciples beyond sales and marketing, including manufacturing, finance, human resources, and the like. These programs will continue under new President Kevin Fink and for years to come.

Mike’s dedication and ability to urge the different functions with this business to better understand one another, meet regularly and cooperate on a host of issues such as talent recruitment and training, regulatory issues affecting the E&S business, and the very real issues surrounding channel disruption have been remarkable. All the key allied associations have met often during the past two years of his NAFEM presidency as the leaderships of all the associations seemed to recognize they had a unique opportunity to overcome some of the distrust and dysfunction of the past. Mike will be the first to tell you it’s not just him but the leaders of all the key groups that have made this happen. One thing that was announced during the NAFEM meeting was that not only will the inter-association meetings continue, they will be expanded to include more incoming and out-going officers of all the groups to help foster continuity as they together address issues facing the business.

So Mike’s done a lot in his two years leading NAFEM. We should all thank him and all hoist a glass—he prefers tequila—to his service and years more of fun, dammit!


Robin Ashton


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