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What drives the nation’s top foodservice operators? To celebrate IFMA's 65th annual Gold & Silver Plate Awards Celebration, we asked the 2019 Silver Plate Class to share what makes them the operator all-stars they are today. Find out what they have to say about their passion for foodservice, career accomplishments and what it means to be part of a legendary group of operators.

Meet Don Falgoust, Vice President of Food and Beverage, RLJ Lodging Trust. Don received the 2019 Silver Plate Award in the Hotels & Lodging category.


What do you enjoy most about your career in foodservice?

I was once told “find something that you love and you will never have to work a day in your life” meaning that if it is truly your unquestioned passion you will look forward to every day of “work”. I get the most satisfaction by developing and mentoring the next generation of F&B professionals. The educational aspect of what I do is critical to the future of our industry; both short term and long term.

I am fortunate to be able to look across the F&B leadership landscape and see so many highly successful men and women that I was able to mentor, develop and educate early in their career. I also am thankful for the many lessons I leaned from them in the process. The industry provides an exceptional canvas for creativity, intrigue and offers a true vehicle for the competitor in us.

Tell us about your biggest career accomplishment.

I would say that on the hotel side it has been to challenge and dissect traditional brand driven operational practices. To lead a “revolution” of sort to abandon those practices in favor of a culture of “risk” taking; essentially stepping away from the uninspired “comfort zones” that have over populated our industry and pushing the envelope on a deeper connection with our guests and employees from a service, culinary and beverage perspective.

I will never sit back and let the freestanding bars and restaurants be the pioneers on innovation and then think that we are doing something special by adopting those ideas only after the real impact of fundamental change has already positioned itself in the industry.

I want to take risks, push boundaries and challenge individuals to not be afraid to do the same. Ours is a business of innovation, constantly evolving. As soon as you think you are “good”, you are “toast”

Our constant education is so multidimensional and infatuating; experiences in lounges, restaurants, reading, listening, art, music...any stimuli that enhances our senses should be utilized as an avenue to creatively and intrigue.

What advice do you have for someone new to the foodservice industry?

It is an amazing industry with so many options however the level of commitment and passion must be unbridled to truly be successful. I use the analogy and example of NFL coaches as a reference; the commitment to their craft, the constant refinement and development of their players (employees), the scouting of the competition to learn new ideas and techniques, the hours of film study. The passion which is on display at every game, every practice and the total immersion into every game (every shift, every event). The obsession to execute with precision and a clear focus on winning.

What does being an IFMA Silver Plate recipient mean to you?

It is such an honor and so very humbling at the same time. I was floored when I received the call, I immediately thought of all of the outstanding and influential people that have shaped my career.

All of the “teachings” that I was fortunate to be the recipient of and the great folks that I have worked for that have let me “spread my wings” and be a risk taker versus another “custodian of the system.”

I then thought of all of the amazing individuals who have won the Silver Plate Awards in the past and how special it is to be associated with such an elite group.