I will admit it - watching Top Chef is a guilty pleasure of mine. I have been able to learn my amuse-bouche from my mise en place (at least enough to not embarrass myself too much). Living in the suburbs of Maryland, I have made it to Frederick to have brunch at Volt - Chef Bryan Voltaggio's restaurant that I could go back to again and again.
Relaxing at home, perusing the twitter stream I was stopped in my tracks by one of Chef Voltaggio's tweets:
"Interesting...Just served a table in my kitchen and overheard "foam is so in now" Menu changes coming VERY soon ;) "
First, I am impressed that as top chef of his kitchen, Chef Voltaggio makes it a point to not only read evaluation cards or surveys filled out after someone has eaten in his restaurant, but also interacts directly with his customers getting their thoughts and feedback. From my own experience, I believe it is just as important that we do the same in the association world. Yes, we need to survey to find out the needs and trends of our members - but we also need to take the next step and talk to them. Whether that is by visiting our components and conversing with program participants, running focus groups or providing a place for conversational feedback at our face to face meetings and conferences - we must be talking to our members if we want to hear what they need and want.
According to the diner, Chef Voltaggio is serving exactly what is popular right now (and I can attest that the foam is indeed delicious). Yet, upon hearing that he is providing what is 'in', Chef Voltaggio's immediate reaction was not a sense of satisfaction, but a sense of urgency. It is not enough to serve what is popular - for Chef Voltaggio if Volt is not ahead of the curve, it is behind the curve.
Reading Race for Relevance this summer, I believe our associations are in the same place. Yes, for a long time we have served what has been popular - and have really done it well. Are we looking at what's next? Not just in our offerings - but in our model. In order to provide the highest quality of service for our members, and to help them create the communities they need to succeed, we have to do more than become forward thinking - we have to become forward acting. Yes, not everything we try will work - but can we learn from our successes and setbacks to continue to grow and not stagnate? I think we can, and I think we must if we are going to best serve our members today and tomorrow.
When you look at your 2012 annuals plans - are your menu changes coming VERY soon?