Betty Perez: Performance Perfector

More venues, more $$$: Over time, Perez has been able to grow retail sales at UMDNJ from about $1 million (during the 1980s) to more than $3.3 million today. The Gift Shop Emporium brings in an additional $300,000 each year, bringing total retail sales to $3.6 million annually. “We’ve added venues over the years—actually this main building opened in 1979 with one cafeteria,” she points out. “We added the carts, the restaurant and we’ve been very assertive in marketing our catering, which has accounted for $650,00 annually.”

The Cruising Café carts were implemented early in 2000. Although both medical and dental school buildings are connected to the hospital, the carts provide convenient pit-stops for students on-the-run. Combined carts sales now contribute about $1,200 per day without cannibalizing cafeteria transactions.

According to Perez, the job provides “a great engaging experience and learning opportunity every day, and the latest came knocking this past August with the mandated 20% staff reduction. “It’s a challenge considering that volume is rather constant,” she explains. “We serve approx. 1.7 million meals annually including 345,000 patient meals, 420,000 nourishments and 1 million non-patient meals—all while having to deliver outstanding patient service and satisfaction.”

There are now 100 FTEs in the food and nutrition services department plus 1.5 FTEs in the gift shop. Prior to the major organizational change—and for the past four years—Perez also managed the department of patient transport. Now that that job has been assigned to nursing, some of her time has been freed up—a blessing since she’s lost her executive chef as well as the campus retail services manager overseeing the seven retail venues.

Staff development: Although minus its executive chef, the department’s food production quality and standards have remained intact, Perez contends. “I strongly believe in staff development, so all of the culinarians are graduates of the “Destination 10’ program that chef Don Miller runs at his Culinary Academy in San Diego,” she explains.

“I had Don come on-site for a full week. Here, he could focus on the certification of our hot food production team. That was an exciting culinary experience for the department. I also have one Culinary Institute of America graduate and other cooks who are graduates of two-year culinary arts programs. Plus, once they’re on staff, we really look to develop them further. We have a very multi-cultural staff and whatever their passion is in food, we encourage it.”

Often that encouragement results in the development of a special event or promotion such as the recently held New Orleans Jazz Fest. “It’s a great way for their passions to be shared through promotions for the staff and patients,” Perez says. “One of our hot production culinarians loves food and jazz. He helped develop the menu and, since we love to provide entertainment, he played lead guitar with the jazz group that we hired. I’ve noticed that our patrons love to be totally engaged with the whole experience—they want to feel it, hear it and taste it!”

Patient promos, too: Even though the average patient stay is only five to six days, Perez has created a special selective promotion menu that changes on a monthly basis. This Patient Spirit Lifter program recently offered a “Cowcium” menu with the objective of promoting 3-A-Day consumption of calcium-containing foods such as milk, cheese and yogurt for stronger bones.

“We focused on snacks that were higher in calcium,” she says. ”We run this after the lunch meal since patients enjoy the extra attention and appreciate any treat you give them beyond their main three meals. We always try to take a unique twist on it and also use it as an educational opportunity.”

Patient satisfaction is, of course, key to the success of any healthcare foodservice operation. At UMDNJ, the meal delivery system is primarily cook-serve with a selective one-week cycle menu in place (see story above). But for heightened satisfaction, Perez introduced an in-room service trial program, Meals of Distinction, in 2004 on four patient care units including oncology, new moms, teenagers and a medical surgical unit.

Cashless benefit: Looking ahead, Perez aims to broaden the appeal of the in-house debit card, named Gold Card, that currently has about 700 users, and promote more widespread cashless retail sales to target a 20% sales increase. She’s “lobbying” to get a payroll deduction option for Gold Card carriers. Today, customers give the department money to load onto their cards while “earning” a 5% incentive for doing so.

As Perez and her department continue to make adjustments for the recent staff reduction, she’s developing a business plan for creating a new 1,500-square-foot retail concept to operate in the recently opened ambulatory care center. “Our own Café Express Gourmet-To-Go is probably a fit,” she says. “We have the talent to create our own brand and that keeps it exciting for our staff. We expect it will generate at least $300,000 a year, but we’d have to hire staff.”

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., has debuted a mini food truck on campus, The Daily News reports.

Dining staff say the truck was introduced to give students more dining options as well as reaffirm the school’s commitment to sustainability.

The truck will feature healthy options with fewer than 550 calories that will be sold in plant-based to-go containers . Students will be able to choose from two to three rotating entrees as well as two signature entrees that will be available the entire week.

Read the full story via .

Sponsored Content

From Mondelez.

With consumers living increasingly busy, on-the-go lifestyles, operators who offer grab-and-go items are in the best position to benefit from the snacking public's eating habits. But since most people turn to different snacks throughout the day, operators need to provide diverse options to capture consumers' changing appetites. The ongoing popularity of grab-and-go items reveals trends that could help operators tailor their inventories to increase sales, especially in the workplace.

What do snackers want?

According to The Hartman Group's 2017 Out of Home...

Industry News & Opinion

Dining halls at the University of California at Los Angeles have begun serving more sustainable seafood dishes, reports the Daily Bruin, the university's student newspaper.

Officials say the change aims to provide healthier choices for students and to help the school reach its goal of sustainably sourcing at least 20% of its food by 2020. The additional seafood has been served in place of red meat, a shift that many students said they didn’t notice.

The fish is sourced from two local fisheries and follows the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch’s guidelines for sustainable...

Industry News & Opinion

Sodexo has appointed Satya Menard as global CEO of its schools and universities segments.

Menard has been with Sodexo for 20 years, holding senior roles within the company such as CEO of benefits and rewards services for Central Europe and CEO of Central and South America for on-site services.

Most recently, Menard was CEO of service operations, a capacity in which he coordinated internal support to operations including service experts in facilities management, food, supply chain and information services and technology.

Menard will transition to the role beginning...

FSD Resources