2012 Silver Plate—Frozen custard start of foodservice career for UCSF Medical Center’s Dan Henroid

Henroid also had stints in academia studying food and nutrition.

Dan Henroid, director of nutrition and foodservice at UCSF Medical Center in San Francisco, always knew he wanted a career with a service aspect. After considering other service professions, Henroid chose foodservice, a decision he says he owes to frozen custard.

“I worked at a frozen custard place in St. Louis [before going to college],” Henroid recalls. “It was a local, hometown concept. They were doing $12,000 a night in frozen custard sales. If you know the old Diary Queens where they had the walk-up windows and no indoor seating, that is kind of what this store was like. There were 14 service windows and just a big parking lot. It was very popular.”

Henroid says he learned all aspects of foodservice, from production to customer service, while working at the store. He then went to college and “sort of floundered [for] a couple of years in what I wanted to do for a career.” Henroid thought about other service professions such as social work or occupational therapy but those didn’t have a strong enough appeal. After meeting with the head of the dietetics program, Henroid found his career path in healthcare foodservice.

Henroid’s first healthcare foodservice position was as a clinical dietitian at the Evanston Hospital in Illinois, later renamed the NorthShore University HealthSystem. He then went to Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, in 1995, where he worked with Linda Lafferty, who would win a Silver Plate in 2005. Henroid credits Lafferty as his mentor.

“I really loved working at Rush and I wanted to maybe be the director there,” Henroid says. “That position required a doctorate, so I left healthcare and became a staff member and an instructor at Iowa State University in the hotel, restaurant management program.” Henroid also worked on his doctorate while at Iowa State.

After five years at Iowa State, Henroid moved to the University of Houston, where he worked at the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management. “My office was on the second floor of an 80-bed Hilton, so they had a living laboratory if you will.”

Henroid was still working on his doctorate when the position at UCSF Medical Center become available. “USCF was a lot like Rush,” Henroid says. He was hired and has been the medical center’s director since 2006.

Henroid hasn’t lost the academia bug, saying he thinks he’ll return at some point. He says first he has more to accomplish at UCSF.

“I really love what I’m doing. I think I made a good choice,” Henroid says about taking the job at UCSF. “The timing was great. I inherited a pretty good team. I’ve been able to help them grow. I added a few key team members. Things have really clicked. We’ve got our fair share of new challenges. For everything that we’ve accomplished here I already know where I’m moving on to next, with a new electronic health record in June and a new hospital opening up in 2015. There is a lot of planning and developing going on with that.”

Henroid says he’s “pretty participative as a leader. I do want to solicit input from people, but at the end of the day if there is no clear direction I will make the call. I’m an informed decision maker. I’m very much data-driven. I want to make the best possible decision with the information that we have in order to move forward and give the best products and services to our patients and customers.”

An average day for Henroid involves acquiring the data to make those decisions. “A lot of what I do is strategic planning and operation planning, whether it’s related to putting in a new health record or sitting in on a task force,” he says. “It’s really hard to get facilities adjusted in California. Things that happen really quickly in other parts of the country do not happen fast here. A lot of my work is diligence and project management. I’m a big believer in having different projects in different phases. I’ve always got something on the drawing board, something in the formal planning stage, something that’s in execution and something that’s in close out.”

To help gather information on trends and to help him create new products and services, Henroid looks to other market segment. “I take part of my team over to see Cal Dining every year to network and see if there are any lessons to be learned,” he says. “Who knows where things are going? Sean (LaPean, the University of California, Berkeley’s director) and I have talked that maybe we should pool our purchasing power or do something like that.”

With all the changes that have taken place during Henroid’s tenure at the hospital [see Part II of Dan’s Silver Plate story], he says it’s important to keep the mood light with his staff and to not dwell on mistakes. “Everything is an opportunity and a lesson learned,” he says. “We’re our own cheerleaders for each other. We do quick, seven-minute huddles for the department in the morning and we get an opportunity to recognize people and pat them on the back. It’s a real simple thank you, but you’re doing it in front of everyone to give them some recognition.

“It is very fulfilling to serve people,” Henroid adds. “I tell my team all the time there is no department in the hospital that can personally and directly touch anyone who walks through the doors like we can.