Staying in the Green

Innovative dashboard feature helps managers at Lackmann Culinary Services' accounts.

FoodService Director, Lackmann Culinary Services, Pace University, Management DashboardNEW YORK—Using a new management system Heath Braunstein, general manager of dining services for Lackmann Culinary Services at 12,900-student Pace University can quickly see where his operation stands financially. The new system features an innovative “dashboard” that helps directors pinpoint problem areas.

“Our systems are all Web-based so they allow a user to have access from any computer, so I can look at stuff at home,” Braunstein said. “Our main operating report is called Key Performance Indicators (KPI). It allows our managers to review detailed information on revenues, food costs, labor and other operating expenses and margins. The new dashboard is unique because it provides quick and easy access to key indicators. It’s just like the dashboard of a car—a visual representation of key operating metrics.”

Once an operator selects the location and the week ending date, the dashboard will display various gauges for data such as customer counts, check averages, food cost percentages and DPI, which is a productivity measure that represents the number of customers served per work hour. The higher the number, the more customers served and, therefore, the more productive that location is, Braunstein said. Each gauge of the dashboard displays the operation’s actual performance versus projected performance and last year’s performance for the selected period.

“What happens is you’re looking at three arrows on each gauge,” Braunstein said. “One arrow is your actual performance, one is your budgeted performance and then one is last year’s performance. The coloring depends on your performance compared to budget, so if you’re ahead of budget or at budget, the gauge is highlighted in green. If you’re below budget, then the gauge is red. Yellow is for caution. So at a glance you can see how you’re doing—the more greens you have, you know you’re doing great.”

Braunstein said, as a general manager, the new system helps him to be more efficient.

“As managers, we are pressed for time,” Braunstein said. “It’s great to be able to access the KPI for a number of operations. Since I’m a general manager, I’m in charge of four different locations with multiple sub departments, so I can access all locations in detail. Sometimes at the end of the week, I want to see how we’re doing and if I see red, I can go into more detail to see what the problem is.”
And although Braunstein said all managers are trained to review financial data carefully, he admitted this program makes it easier for managers who aren’t as financially savvy.

“We work with managers of all different ability levels,” Braunstein said. “Some mangers may have difficulty with a detailed financial report, but this quick visual representation helps them. Also, we have some clients that have access to our systems who usually only want to see a few indicators. We gave them the dashboard so they can see very quickly how we’re doing. The dashboard doesn’t necessarily help me catch something I might have missed before, but it helps me catch problems faster.”