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.”

More From FoodService Director

Managing Your Business
ohio state o

No, that’s not a typo: 51,759 undergraduates were enrolled at Ohio State University in the 2015-2016 academic year, making it one of the largest public universities in the country. And while not every student had a meal plan, it’s safe to say that Zia Ahmed, senior director of dining services for the Columbus, Ohio, school, is in charge of both feeding and supervising a massive number of people.

Ahmed says his No. 1 tips for handling the travel, stress and struggle for work-life balance that comes with his job are straightforward: communication and managing people’s expectations....

Managing Your Business
steam table server

Over the past five years, this column has kept me current on topics ranging from culinary techniques to HR policies to pest control. As a culinary and hospitality educator, one of the things I really value about my work with Restaurant Business , FoodService Director's sister publication, is that it broadens my knowledge base so I have more answers in the classroom.

But part of being a good professor is being smart enough to say, “I have no clue, but I know who will.” When it comes to equipment engineering, I’m lucky if I can find the “on” switch.

Fortunately, I have James...

Industry News & Opinion

HMSHost has partnered with golf tournament organizer PGA Tour to open a new PGA Tour Grill location in El Paso International Airport in El Paso, Texas.

The grill aims to promote an active lifestyle through healthy food options outside of traditional airport fare, and appeals to golf fans with flat-screen TVs dedicated to golf tournaments and related programming.

“The new PGA Tour Grill is a perfect addition to the El Paso International Airport as it brings a new and refreshing menu,” Monica Lombrana, director of aviation at El Paso International Airport, said in a statement...

Industry News & Opinion

K-12 foodservice participating in federal nutrition programs soon could fall into some extra cheese. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is set to buy 11 million pounds of cheese to raise plummeting prices, the result of a dairy glut. The acquired product will be distributed to federal nutrition programs, which might include WIC, SNAP and Child Nutrition Programs, and food banks.

The purchase falls short of a call from Congress, unions, special interest groups and commodity organizations for a $150 million buyout of dairy assets to mitigate the 35% drop in dairy revenues—a 30-year...

FSD Resources