2012 Silver Plate—Mark Freeman: The Value of Listening

Mark Freeman's listening-based approach has yielded great results at Microsoft.

At Microsoft’s Redmond campus, Freeman is responsible for 43 cafés and Microsoft’s Commons, which houses 14 restaurants and nine retail spaces such as a bank, hair salon and more. During his tenure Freeman was able to reduce costs in American locations by $10 million.

At a Glance: Mark Freeman
•Senior Manager of Global Employee Services
•Microsoft Corporation, Redmond, Wash.
•Years in foodservice: 32
•Years at Microsoft: 7
•Meals per day: 91,000 globally
•Annual sales volume: $140 million globally

Mark Freeman’s operational achievements:

•Under Freeman the operation has achieved a 63% participation rate and has an average check of $5. Customer satisfaction has improved by more than 27% in the last six years.

•One of the major factors contributing to Freeman’s financial success was the introduction of local restaurants to Microsoft’s cafés. “We survey our customers annually and our employees always wanted more variety. So we brought local restaurants to our cafés as stations. We started out with six restaurants and now we’re up to about 30.” Participation in these locations has increased more than 4% during the past four years.

•The idea to bring outside restaurants onto Microsoft’s campus also led to Freeman’s decision to do the same in the campus Commons building. Opened three years ago, Freeman says the overall goal of the Commons was to make the employees more productive. “Through surveys we determined [employees] were going to lunch but also to the post office or bank. [So we] brought those services into the Commons. Employees can now take care of the majority of their needs on campus.” The Commons handles about 6,000 transactions per day.

•Sustainability has been another area of growth for Freeman. The Redmond campus earned a 3-star rating from the Green Restaurant Association, the first 3-star rating given to a corporate account. “To me, we blazed new ground for an operation of this scale and we’re still doing it. We are on track to be completely zero waste. We’re at 99% right now.” Other sustainability accomplishments include recycling 10,000 gallons of biodiesel annually, composting, eliminating plastic water bottles and reducing refuse sent to landfills by 50%.

•Freeman has also embraced the technology that Microsoft is producing by implementing several phone apps related to foodservice. The TAGs program places QR codes on a variety of food-related items that [when scanned] take you to a website that offers nutrition info, daily specials or discounts. “We started to play with the technology a little bit and what it did was give the people who developed these apps a measure of success to show what [the apps] could do. We were helping out the company by piloting the technology in the café.”

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The University of Maryland will begin offering weekly specials at all of its dining halls this semester, The Diamond Back reports.

The weekday specials will allow Dining Services to offer past menu items that students miss as well as new dishes students have been requesting, according to a spokesperson.

Students can find out which specials are being offered each week via dining hall table tents as well as through Dining Services’ social media. During select weeks, the specials may reflect a particular theme, such as Taste of the South.

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