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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 Lorna Donatone, CEO Geographic Regions, Sodexo. Lorna received the 2019 Silver Plate Award in the Business & Industry/Foodservice Management category, and was nominated by Ecolab.





Tell us about your biggest career accomplishment.

My team has earned many accomplishments over the years for which I am proud – but I hesitate to call them “my” achievements. Certainly, I am proud of our results and how we continue to shape Sodexo as an innovator in both supporting clients and also in supporting our employees.

I am very proud to have led teams that prioritize employees. One thing I have tried hard to do on this front is to lead by example. I believe essential elements of good leadership are taking the time to listen to colleagues and also finding ways to create support. I want everyone at Sodexo to feel that they can bring their whole selves to work. I want every employee to feel valued.

How is your segment making a difference for the foodservice industry?

One area for which I feel proud and honored to be a part is Sodexo’s leadership in gender equality. We are leading the way with a commitment to have women in 40 percent of leadership roles by 2025. We have commissioned our own research and found how workplaces benefit from gender-balanced management. There are many other achievements I could cite. My colleague Rohini Anand, Sodexo’s Chief Global Diversity Officer and SVP of Corporate Responsibility, has been a major force in this effort. Also the WFF has been terrific at highlighting the issue and helping women at all levels grow in their careers. There is obviously still a long way to go to reach gender parity in the business world, but I am confident we will get there when we have companies like Sodexo pushing ahead.

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

Find a mentor. Or mentors. When you can establish a relationship with someone who understands the industry, you can learn much more quickly. Mentors can also provide a safe place to ask for advice and help. An ideal mentor would be someone who has faced similar challenges, or has more experience with the landscape, or just has a different point of view. We all need an outside perspective. No matter how smart we think we are, our own point of view and our own experiences are not broad enough.

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

I am so honored. IFMA has done so much to help our industry stay connected and learn from each other. I am accepting this recognition with tremendous gratitude and an understanding that it is really a recognition of the larger team I work with and how we are succeeding in inspiring innovation and driving excellence.