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And so the sun sets over Dallas. It’s a symbolic moment as I bid farewell to this city and to all the friends I made at Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) International Airport, our wonderful hosts for the Airport Food & Beverage (FAB) Conference & Awards 2019 this week.
What brilliant hosts DFW were, as warm as they were professional. They have supported FAB and The Trinity Forum for many years and to be able to bring our event to their home cities (Dallas and Fort Worth) was an honour and privilege.
Regular readers will know that when my Blog goes silent for several days I am really under the hammer work-wise. And that has certainly been the case this week. Events such as FAB are hugely demanding, with hours of scripting, preparation and research meaning little sleep and huge stress. You still need to put in the networking and social time as well as fronting and moderating the conference. But while the strains are huge so are the rewards of meeting so many fine people from varying backgrounds drawn from all around the world.
People often say how relaxed I appear on stage when moderating a panel discussion or doing one-on-one interviews. In truth it’s more like a duck floating apparently serenely on the river, but paddling furiously beneath the water. As all of us in the industry know, when it comes to public speaking you can never take short cuts, never under prepare, never think you can just ‘wing it’. Screwing up on stage in front of 300 people is not an option.
But again, there are rewards, sometimes unexpected. Yesterday I moderated a session involving just two speakers (a third had dropped out) – Nick Crews, Managing Partner & President of Crews, a proudly independent, vibrant and highly successful US F&B operator, and Sean Warren, New Restaurant Growth Director at Chick-fil-A, an extraordinary three-generation success story which generated US$10 billion in sales last year.
What could have been a standard Q&A session turned into a warm, deep and revealing chat, which left me and the audience knowing a lot more about the how and why of these two contrasting companies’ success stories.
FAB 2019 was full of such pleasurable moments. From the Airport Tour courtesy of Dallas Fort Worth International Airport to the Welcoming Evening at River Ranch Stockyards in Fort Worth, courtesy of SSP to the splendid FAB Awards dinner and everything in between, this was an enjoyable and enlightening event.
For me, that enjoyment was enhanced by my experience of Dallas Fort Worth International Terminal D before the long flight home to London. What a strikingly good mix of duty free, specialist retail and food & beverage – to me, the latter being the star of the show, topped off by the first-rate Flying Saucer, SSP’s newly opened craft beer emporium (pictured below) and a sure-fire strong contender for next year’s FAB Awards.
Thank you Dallas Fort Worth International Airport for making FAB’s US debut such a successful memorable one. “Y’all come back,” said the receptionist at official hotel the Westin Galleria to me as I checked out. That is a certainty.