For creating “team” spirit—that is, energizing your foodservice stalwarts as well as the customers you serve—almost nothing beats throwing a tailgate party in the cafeteria, according to a foodservice operator in Kansas City.
You might figure that he works in a school or college campus setting since such hoopla would seem to be the perfect fit for either sector. But Stephen Mikitish is food and nutrition department senior director at 225-bed Truman Medical Center, a Morrison Management Specialists account in this city, home of the NFL’s Chiefs, Major League Baseball’s Royals and other assorted minor-league and college teams in numerous sports.
At Truman, despite the close proximity of a fast-food restaurant, Mikitish and staff serve some 800 to 1,100 customers their lunchtime meal each day. Cafeteria sales often jump from a daily lunchtime average of about $2,800 to approximately $4,000 whenever a special event is scheduled.
This Alabama native has been in Missouri—and at this location—five-and-a-half years, so now, like most of his customers, he’s a staunch Kansas City Chiefs fan. He soon discovered that providing an opportunity to rally for the home team makes good sense, monetarily and psychologically.
Good excuse: “Basically, it’s an excuse to dress up, spruce up the place and show some spirit,” he says. “It’s very energizing for my staff and the medical center staff as a whole. Typically, we offer tickets to the next game or other prizes such as footballs. Customers must wear red—the Chiefs’ colors are red and gold—to be eligible to put their name in the bowl for prizes. If they’re not wearing red, a piece of red paper pinned to their clothing will do.”
Mikitish recalls that two years ago the hospital had gone through a couple of major reviews by the state. Since preparing for that is stressful, he figured he’d do something special to lighten up the atmosphere—it was time to throw a tailgate party complete with burgers, bratwursts and hot dogs on the grill. Pre-event excitement was so high—and the concept so unique for a healthcare facility—that camera crews from four TV stations showed up for the event as well.
Come on down: “In any business, with 1,500 (captive) employees, some start to carry lunch from home,” Mikitish explains. “This is a good way to get them to come down to the cafeteria again. We do the grilling on the patio and, if the weather is good, they can sit out there to eat. Otherwise, we set up at our exhibition area, the Spice of Life station. We decorate with photos and streamers, plus we may ask for the hard-core Chiefs fans to bring down memorabilia. For $300 to $400—including caps or team jerseys for our foodservice staff—the place is really transformed.
“Overall, there’s no downside,” Mikitish continues. “Your staff has a lot of fun, you get people to re-focus on the cafeteria, and administration appreciates it.”