It was a unique event that brought readers of this publication together with readers from our sister publication, Foodservice Equipment & Supplies, for two days of TED Talks-style presentations, networking and conversation. You can view the talks and more on the FED site.

So many ideas and conversations bounced around the Summit that it’s hard to pinpoint just one or two key takeaways. From specific and measurable advice (Measuring Customer Experience to Build Loyalty and Drive Growth) to disruptive and thought-provoking realities (Futureshock: The Evolution of Bar Design and What It Means for Designers, Architects and Operators), the assembled group did not leave hungry for new ideas.

Despite the numerous discussions on technology, automation and transformation, one key thread weaved its way throughout both the formal and informal discussions: The foundation of restaurants and the businesses built around them rests on one person or group providing services and solutions to another person or group. In short, restaurants are built on human connection. This idea was particularly explicit in The Polarization of Experience vs. Convenience, the talk by Steve Starr, president of starrdesign.

One attendee told me he enjoyed the presentations and certainly took new ideas for his business with him on his way home, but he felt that the opportunity to connect with peers, competitors, and potential customers in a personal way in between sessions and during the private networking party that was held at the Art Institute of Chicago was even more enriching.

It’s those new connections I will take into the new year and think about for months to come. The chance to finally meet people I’d spoken with on the phone numerous times and the opportunity to introduce attendees that I knew would have so much in common — both personally and professionally — made the event particularly meaningful.

There’s something special about the hospitality industry and the people who populate both the consumer-facing positions and the businesses built up to support them. Hospitality is an industry filled with people who choose a life dedicated to service and creating positive experiences for others.

In this issue we also hope to be of service. In the Product Guide we present a curated selection of some of the best products our editors have found in the past year to help outfit your 2019 restaurant projects. We hope you find them beautiful and useful.

Don’t forget to keep us up to date on your disruptive ideas, keen observations, favorite products, unexpected solutions and most challenging new restaurant projects.