Five Questions for: Carlos Rivera

Carlos Rivera, Five Questions, CulinartAs customers become more and more time-strapped, delivery is becoming an even more attractive option for B&I operators looking to capture more business. Carlos Rivera, director of dining services for Culinart at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft in New York City, spoke to FSD about a new express delivery system his department is launching in time for warmer weather.

What exactly is the express delivery menu?

The express delivery menu is going to be a shorter version of our delivery menu. It’s called Dine at Your Desk. We are going through a test run right now, and so far so good. Customers can access the menu, place their order and either pick it up in the dining room or have it delivered to their desk. The idea is for people to not have to wait a long time, especially in the summer months when people really want to get outside and enjoy the weather. The new system is going to be geared more toward an express system because people who are calling us on a daily basis are calling because at the last minute they can’t leave their desk. The express system that we’re going to use is for people who are going to be leaving the facility and need something delivered to them so they can get it and go.

Why was this something you wanted to start?

This is something that was in our dining room comments and we were hearing it from a lot of people, so I had to find a way to develop this in a way that I could give the customers some variety and at the same time package it attractively. The important thing was to not make a promise that I couldn’t deliver on. I didn’t want to do anything too expansive. We wanted it to be something people can have waiting for them or delivered to them at the appropriate time. We have two different types of customers—one who wants to leave the facility and one who can’t leave their desks. The main purpose for the delivery program is to offset the normal drop in participation that we usually have during the summer months.

In B&I, I know it’s very important to keep clients in the facility, but when it’s 85 degrees outside and you’re stuck at your desk all day, you want to get outside. There’s a trade-off; if you go outside to get lunch, you have to decide what you want to eat, where you’re going to eat it and how long is it going to take you to get it. So the idea with this program is to cut that process time down. Even if they decide to eat here, they can still go outside and enjoy the day. We just had competition open up downstairs that’s a retail outfit, but like I said, it’s what you do in the past that customers remember and with these programs you can somehow maintain your customer base.

What will the menu be like?

We’re offering composed salads, entrées—usually the entrees that are the specials of the day. We’re not doing soups. We are doing salads especially. We’re also featuring lunchboxes, which include a sandwich, a piece of fruit, a brownie and a fruit or pasta salad. A lot of things we’re not going to be able to do. If you did something like a soup, there’s a timing issue. People are either running late or you’re going to deliver a product that’s not hot or it’s not going to taste good, so you have to offer items that are user friendly and are going to be conducive to this type of program.

How are you getting the word out about this new service?

We’re going to use our intranet. We’re going to do e-mail blasts with the actual ordering form. We’re going to also have an intranet menu that features our dining room menu, but I’m going to have I.T. develop the shorter version of the dining room menu that’s going to target people who are want something for that one. People can’t wait to get this going. To keep their jobs, our customers are working more for less and not taking a regular lunch hour because of work overload. The food thing plays a very big part in keeping them going. If you can deliver quality in a short period of time, you’re going to win a lot of business because people are going to want to maintain a quality of work life outside the job. What I mean by that is they want their lunch break. It’s just something I’ve had rolling around in my brain for sometime now. People don’t want to waste time. They know what they want and spend time in line. They want to find a way that the delivery process can deliver the same quality of food they could get if they went to a store.

Do you have any advice for other operators who may want to try something similar?

Think it through very carefully. Think through the items that you put on the menu, which are going to be conducive to delivery. Have a good idea of who is going to execute the program and who is going to deliver these items. Have good communication between the kitchen, customers and the menu. Make sure you deliver the goods on time. For operators, people need to do more business, so this is an aspect that should not be looked at as something to take lightly. I think delivery will be more important than before because my phone rings every day with caterers calling me that want the business here. If they did work their way into my business here, it would be through delivery. So how important it is to them is how important it has to be for us. It must be executed in the proper way. If it’s not done properly, it’s better not to do it at all.