Five Questions for: Nadeem Siddiqui

FoodService Director - Five Questions for Nadeem SiddiquiAs healthy menu options become more and more prolific, operators are
looking for seamless ways to incorporate these options into their
menus. FSD talked to Nadeem Siddiqui, resident district manager for Bon
Appetit at 13,600-student Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., to
get some advice on how to menu healthy effectively. 

What does “healthy” options mean to your operation?

We have a dietitian on our team and we work very closely with her trying to determine what the regulations of the government are, what we hear from our students and what we hear from professionals to come up with a guideline so we can promote it. We mostly follow the ADA nutritional guidelines. We have also looked at the portion sizes and made sure our staff is trained to portion meals correctly. Sometimes we do get a comment that the portion sizes are small, but we know they are balanced portions. We also offer a lot of local food here and we define that as within a 150-mile range.

What do you feel is the best way to integrate healthy options into menus?

Something we’ve really taken to heart is that the information we put out on the nutrition side has to be accurate. Whatever you put out, you have to be honest about it. Also, make sure your chefs and production staff are straight with you, so when they substitute items, we’re straight about it. So if there is a certain kind of cheese that we’re saying has a certain number of calories and that cheese switches to something that has higher calories, we need to make sure that we’re telling the customers. I think the biggest part is training. You’ve got to train the production staff and your chefs about what constitutes “healthy.” Just putting the guidelines out there doesn’t cut it.

How do you handle the costs of healthy menu items?

We budget for the healthier items. Our commitment to higher quality and local food has always been there. In these economic times, it’s difficult, but again we work closely with our local vendors, farmers and people we have long-term partnerships with to keep the prices at a certain level. What we don’t want to do is charge the customer more to eat healthier. We’re trying to stay away from that as a deterrent. We manage the price by negotiating with the vendors, portion control and by reducing waste. We have a tremendous amount of work going into reducing waste in the kitchen and in the front of the house.

What are some of your most popular original recipes for healthy options?

We do a lot of portabella mushroom sandwiches. We do tofu—tofu stew, tofu stir-fry and tofu with beans and rice. Again, we buy a lot of local vegetables so we grill those. Healthy food has this bad connotation of not tasting good and that is one thing I’ve asked our chefs to work really hard to make sure the healthy food as tasty if not better than the other food. For proteins, we do a lot of grilled fishes with a light sauce. We do grilled chicken and sometimes shish kabobs, which are fairly simple but healthy. We just stayed on that focus of grilling and baking. We also have a fresh sushi program that we make in house and that is very popular.

What advice would you give to other operators about incorporating healthy menu options into your operation?

Make sure your staff is trained as to what healthy options means since it means different things to different people. Make sure they know what it means generally speaking and that they also understand the customer’s lingo. Once that connection is made, then I think we can do a much better job. I think education and training is a big part of making sure you’re connecting with customers to make sure we are meeting their needs. I think it’s a constant partnership with employees, chefs and our dietitian. We’re lucky to have a really active and resourceful dietitian on campus.

More From FoodService Director

Menu Development
eggs

Loyola University Maryland took a new approach to all-day breakfast with an egg-focused concept.

Breakfast options were top of mind for students when asked what they would like to see on the menu at the university’s revamped Boulder Garden Cafe. Instead of creating an all-day breakfast station, however, the Baltimore-based dining team went beyond traditional options and created a concept that services all mealparts with eggs.

“It can be somewhat mundane,” says Executive Chef Don Crowther on why the team strayed away from the trendy all-day breakfast. At the eatery’s Sunny...

Industry News & Opinion

The University of Kansas has added a retail pass that allows students to purchase one to-go combo meal per day at cafes and markets on campus, the University Daily Kansan reports.

The pass is available on two different meal plans and is geared toward on-the-go students who don’t have the time to sit down and eat at a residence hall.

“It has increased the participation rate,” Jamie Reed, a service assistant for the school’s dining services, told the University Daily Kansan.

Over 1,800 students have used the pass since its debut at the beginning of the semester....

Industry News & Opinion

The University of Minnesota dining team has created a vegan student group in an effort to improve the school’s vegan offerings, Minnesota Daily reports.

The group was created by the school’s foodservice vendor, Aramark, and its campus sustainability coordinator, who is vegan, after receiving numerous complaints from students about the lack of vegan options on campus.

The group will this week host its first meeting, during which members will be able to share feedback and provide solutions to help enhance the school’s vegan offerings. Members will also keep a photo journal...

Industry News & Opinion

Panera Bread Co. announced today that it intends to buy the Au Bon Pain brand as a way of opening more bakery-cafes in colleges, healthcare facilities, office buildings, travel centers and malls.

Au Bon Pain, which was Panera’s sole business under an earlier incarnation of the company, consists of 304 bakery-cafes. Several units are located in noncommercial venues.

Panera owns or holds the franchise rights to about 2,050 restaurants, few of which are located outside of strip malls.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Immediately after the deal was...

FSD Resources