MenuDirections 2013: Day Two Highlights

Coming face-to-face with a pig's head adds clarity on FSDs' changing roles

By 
Peter Romeo, Director of Digital Content

It’s not a routine conference when the speaker reaches for the severed pig’s head on the counter and lifts off the face, explaining he’d carved it free earlier so he’d have time to saw apart the carcass that’d been parted from the skull (“The brain’s still in there, but that’s okay.”)

Welcome to one of the more extraordinary sessions of Menu Directions 2013 and the lens it provides on how the food service director’s job is changing. During one of the conference's 30-Minute Universities, Stephen Gerike of the National Pork Board broke down half a pig and a whole hog’s head to show the audience where familiar pork specialties come from. In the process, he underscored how much more the FSD has to know today to do his or her job, a message that was sounded repeatedly from the stage and in casual conversations.

Clearly that responsibility extends far beyond feeding tens or hundreds of thousands of people per day. During the MenuDirections awards banquet, FSD of the Year candidate Eric Goldestein was lauded for serving almost 900,000 meals daily in New York City schools. But what drew gasps from the audience was the observation that he also oversees student transportation within the nation’s largest school district.

In feedback to speakers and chatter during breaks, attendees noted that their responsibilities now extend to housing, laundry services and, perhaps most routinely, the concessions in stadiums and other facilities connected to a non-commercial foodservice operation. Once, the worry was making food look good on the line. Now, as West Point’s Kevin D’Onofrio noted at one breakfast, it's adjusting to a game day snowstorm that cuts revenues from  your stadium concessions by some 70%.

But it’s not just a matter of new areas of responsibility being added. As the pig-carving 30-Minute University illustrated, FSDs need to know far more today about their core responsibilities of serving food. It’s no longer merely a challenge of finding the "Peel Back Here" corner on frozen product. They need to have a grasp on where their food comes from, and what to do about dynamics like the surge in gluten-free dining.

By Peter Romeo, Director of Digital Content
View More Articles By Peter Romeo

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
baked bread

Instead of sourcing value-added product to reduce labor, the food and nutrition team at University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics in Madison outsources its baked goods to a local shop that hires only formerly incarcerated workers. The bakery was able to hire two new former inmates in order to keep up with the volume needs of the hospital. “We want to be really entrenched in the community, not just have a building that sits in the center of Madison,” says Amy Mihm, clinical nutrition specialist for the hospital.

Managing Your Business
food symbols allergens

Bellevue School District in King County, Wash., has reduced the instances of life-threatening allergic reactions by 94% since 2013. Wendy Weyer, business manager for nutrition services, says that success stems from direct communication with the district’s 20,000 students.

Q: What was the first thing you did to start reducing allergic reactions?

A: More than five years ago, we changed our menu signage to provide information to students on what the common allergens were on all the foods that were served at every station. We use symbols such as an egg or a wheat stalk for younger...

Ideas and Innovation
cold storage boxes

When working with a small footprint, the back of the house often gets squeezed in the interest of preserving precious seats. But as storage space contracts, these restaurant operators are getting resourceful with everything from shelves to ceiling height to inventory in ways that FSDs can apply, too.

“When we were first tasked with figuring out smaller footprints, when it came to interiors, it was like a bad riddle,” says Trinity Hall, SVP of development for Dallas-based Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, which shrunk its prototype from 2,200 square feet to 1,800. “Let’s make it smaller and...

Menu Development
induction cooking nuts

Thanks to prolific fast casuals such as Chipotle, guests have come to expect a certain level of customization in their dining options. For almost 50% of Generation Zers, customization is a deciding factor when purchasing food, according Technomic’s 2016 Generational Consumer Trend Report . Taking customization even further, operations are handing over even more control to customers with both build-your-own and cook-your-own stations.

Elder Hall’s My Kitchen station at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., offers a daily rotating ingredient bar with items such as stir-fry,...

FSD Resources