It's never too early to start an entrepreneurial journey, but for youth, there are countless barriers that can make it challenging to launch their idea in the food industry. This is why it was important to us to partner with Chartwells Canada and reach a community group that is often underserved. We reached out to Executive Vice President of Chartwells, Kevin Booth, to share how our collaborative partnership is creating development opportunities for youth who will be the future change-makers for consumer-packaged goods in Canada.
Venturepark Labs: What is your role at Chartwells?
KB: My name is Kevin Booth, I am the Executive Vice President for Chartwells. In my role, I focus on providing support for our teams as we develop and implement individual dining offers for our campus partners.
As someone who is passionate about great food and creating exceptional experiences for our campus communities, I'm thrilled to be part of this team that truly believes in excellent service.
VL: What is Chartwells’ primary aim and/or mission?
KB: As the country's largest educational food service provider, our focus is to deliver food services to educational institutions that meet the needs of students and campus communities. Our services range from dining halls to retail food outlets, catering to educational events and beyond. Our expansive offers bring food services to schools from K12 through to higher education in all forms.
VL: What are some of the common challenges you see culinary students face?
KB: Often, we see culinary students challenged with the lack of awareness of the diverse opportunities within the industry that are available to them. There are a myriad of career paths that can be explored that leverage the skills learned in the classroom and provide an avenue for everyone to find something that fits their lifestyle. We work closely with our campus partners, and through partnerships, to help increase exposure and awareness for students as they enter the workforce.
VL: What is the history behind Chartwells’ Thinking Ahead Giving Back program?
KB: The Thinking Ahead Giving Back (TAGB) vision came from a desire to have a deeper understanding of what is important to the campuses we serve and our teams across the country, and to develop a vision that brings these key aspects to life through a purpose driven model. Through conversations with our partners, teams, and campus communities, this program was created to allow purpose to be at the centre of all we do, while making sure there is a strong value alignment that we live, and create impact through, each day.
VL: Why did you decide to partner with Venturepark Labs and how has it helped culinary entrepreneurs?
KB: Our decision to partner with Venturepark Labs was through the unique connection we both have to helping shape and support culinary entrepreneurs of today and the future. We have teams of passionate culinarians and culinary support associates that provide mentorship to Venturepark Labs' entrepreneurs, offering their in-field experience and feedback. We also gain valuable visibility to local entrepreneurs in the consumer-packaged goods space, helping us to continue to support local businesses through our BuyLocal program.
Additionally, though our partnerships with many post-secondary institutions across Canada, we can help promote VL programs - such as the Concept to Market Sprint, which gives two students from Chartwells partnered schools an opportunity to showcase their ideas and explore how it could be a viable business. Again, with the goal of helping build the future of our industry and students.
VL: How has your dining program increased exposure or development opportunities for food entrepreneurs?
KB: Through our partnership with Venturepark Labs we have been able to increase our ability to bring new and exciting items from food entrepreneurs, into our campus communities. As well, working through our Buy Local program, which focuses supporting local farmers and businesses as well as decreasing the distance food travels, our teams work closely together to onboard new food entrepreneurs, and support them as they expand their businesses into diverse markets.
VL: Any words of advice for youth who are looking to enter the food service industry?
KB: My advice for any one going into any industry is to work hard, let your passion lead you, and remember that there are people all around you that want to help you succeed. Mentorship plays a big role in your development and success as you enter the workforce, and often, can go overlooked. Pay attention to your surroundings, learn from those around you, and put yourself out there to get experience in a variety of areas to develop and hone skills. And of course, remember you cannot pour from an empty cup, so take care of yourself along the way.