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WFF Recognizes Women Leaders


The advancement of women leaders in the foodservice industry. It’s what the Women’s Foodservice Forum has strove for since its inception in 1989 and many of those leaders were honored last week during the WFF’s annual Leadership Development Conference.

Held in Dallas at the Hilton Anatole, the conference brought more than 3,000 attendees together to celebrate WFF’s 25th anniversary and kicked off Sunday, March 23 with the presentation of the Trailblazer Award, posthumously, to Fritzi Pikes Woods, the WFF president and CEO who led the organization for three years before she died unexpectedly last fall. The annual award, which recognizes dedication to improving the industry through support of gender diversity and creating opportunities for women, was officially renamed the Fritzi Pikes Woods Trailblazer Award.

“Fritzi Pikes Woods was an immensely respected leader, and was my dear friend and WFF partner. She served as a mentor to so many in the foodservice industry,” said Laurie Burns, WFF chairwoman and Darden Restaurants chief development officer. “She was devoted to furthering the cause for gender-balanced executive teams. By renaming this award in her honor, we commit to follow her trail.”

Prior to joining WFF, Woods was executive chair of the board, CEO and president of Primesource Foodservice Equipment, which at its profitable sale in 2012 was the tenth largest foodservice equipment company with customers in the U.S. and 46 other countries. She also held senior executive positions in sales and marketing and finance with the Dallas Morning News and Motorola. During her tenure with WFF she worked with the administration of President Obama to advocate on behalf of women in executive roles, and served as a board member for Jamba Juice, Ignite Restaurant Group, the National Restaurant Association, BUCA and Lone Star New Market, among others.

Sunday’s opening session also served as the launch of the Fritzi Pikes Woods Aspire Higher Fund, which WFF interim CEO Hattie Hill said will provide leadership development opportunities for women in the foodservice industry. More than $400,000 has been raised toward the initial fund goal of $1 million.

Awards abound

Catherine Kayser

Sysco CEO Bill DeLaney and new WFF chairwoman Susan Gambardella of Coca-Cola present Catherine Kayser (center) with the Leadership Award.

Catherine Kayser, market president of Sysco’s Northeast broadline operations, is the WFF’s 2014 Leadership Award recipient. Presented to Kayser by Bill DeLaney, president and CEO of Sysco, the award recognizes a women executive who shows exceptional leadership qualities within her company and the industry at large, and whose professional growth and achievements are recognized through career advancement. 

“Catherine Kayser is exactly what we have envisioned as a recipient for this year’s Leadership Award,” said Anna Mason, general manager and vice president of operations, WFF. “She has supported our leadership development programs and has become an excellent role model for the women of the foodservice industry, Sysco, and WFF.”

Kathleen Wood

Kathleen Wood (right) accepts her Outstanding Board Service Award from outgoing chairwoman Laurie Burns.

Kathleen Wood is the recipient of the Outstanding Board Service Award, honoring her for the impact she has had in shaping the current WFF strategy and the support she has provided to WFF over the last six months.

Julie Lim

Julie Lim accepts her Volunteer of the Year award from WFF chairwoman-elect Kat Cole, president of Cinnabon.

The conference also served to honor WFF’s volunteers and up-and-coming female leaders. The 2014 Volunteer of the Year award went to Julie Lim, director of product development for Royal Cup Coffee, while five women were named to the Women Making Their Mark list. They are: Cathy Loblaw, senior director of McDonalds Restaurants of Canada; Felicia White, director of National Field Training for Church’s Chicken; Maureen Lynch, sales and operations lead for Rich Products; Susan Wasco, director of customer marketing for Kellogg; and Tracy Treadwell, operations director with Dunkin Brands.

* Photos by Steph Grant


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Laura MichaelsLaura Michaels is editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3210, or send story ideas to lmichaels@franchisetimes.com.
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Nicholas UptonNicholas Upton is restaurants editor at Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3226, or send story ideas to nupton@franchisetimes.com.
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