Josephine Theal, director of food category management in Delaware North’s procurement department, served as an education session panelist during the National Restaurant Association (NRA) Show held May 18 – 22.

Theal provided Delaware North’s perspective as a large company dealing with seafood fraud in the session titled “Telling the Story of Your Seafood: How to Avoid Mislabeling, Protect Your Reputation and Achieve Sustainability.” Seafood fraud is the practice of misleading consumers about their seafood through mislabeling or short labeling packages, for example, to increase profits.

“We wanted to explore this issue through the culinary lens,” Theal said. “Focusing on how to mitigate fraud with the NRA was really important step toward correcting the problem.”

The session was moderated by Barton Seaver, founder and chief education officer of the Coastal Culinary Academy. Celebrity chef and restaurateur Rick Bayless also served on the panel offering his views as a small business owner.

“We don’t have the luxury of meeting with every one of our seafood suppliers (like Rick Bayless does), but we take other steps to ensure there is integrity in the process,” she said. “We can prevent fraud by asking the right questions of our suppliers and preparing our culinary teams through education and best practices.”

Theal noted an interesting question on taking into account the perspective of today’s more-educated consumers – one that elicited two very different responses.

“Rick was very frank in saying he doesn’t take them into account because he is more versed on the subject than the average consumer,” Theal said. “At Delaware North, we do take the consumer into account, but we use internal metrics to define sustainability, as well as third-party partners such as the New England Aquarium, to help better understand what’s important to our guests.”

She also pointed out within Delaware North, three departments – procurement, culinary and sustainability – work together to develop a singular point of view on the issue.

“We meet weekly to ensure we are telling a common story and working toward the same goal,” Theal said. “Alignment is crucial in an organization with several stakeholders.”