Bill Moloney: Account Ability

F-F-V hive alive: Today, a vegetable processing operation is a hive of activity tucked inside the Culinary Support Center. One machine can skin a cantaloupe in 4.5 seconds flat. Thus, the labor-intensive job of cleaning and processing fruits and vegetables by hand is now accomplished mechanically, with a higher yield gained in the process.

In addition, inventory control is more efficient with one central plant versus 10 separate locations. With such efficiencies in place, an annual labor savings of almost $350,000 is realized and Moloney has been able to upgrade his specs for buying produce.

A cook-chill operation producing soups, pasta and sauces is also included within the center, replacing production previously carried out at each of the 10 kitchens. Thirty-two soups are currently in inventory, all produced with great consistency under the vigilant eye of a trained chef. Since managers can order as much cook-chill product as needed, waste has been reduced and main units can now offer four soups instead of just two. The initial $250,000 investment to equip this unit was paid off within three years, Moloney reports.

Packing it in: Cold food processing from the Culinary Support Center's garde manger area has grown beyond expectation, even surprising Moloney. "We foresaw the interest, but not how fast fresh, pre-packed items would grow," he admits. "Our Uncle Phil's Express is a line we started after we saw what (the) garde manger (staff) could do. Previously, we had seven locations each making about 100 sandwiches daily. Now we have one location, with controlled temperature, making all of them. Plus, one of our chefs was a sushi expert so we started packaging four different types as well as yogurt parfaits, sandwiches and wraps. So our cold processing just grew and expanded choices to the point where now about 45 items are prepared there for Uncle Phil's."

Overall, more than $12 million worth of food and beverage was purchased during the 2005-'06 school year with the majority of goods tracked by seven warehouse men, then shipped via the center's five trucks to the 10 kitchens, three or four times a day, six days a week.

With warehousing and production areas humming along, two years ago Moloney turned his attention to the retail side and opened Market Street at MacCracken, a grocery store conceived to replace a former c-store operation. Being near the center of campus and close to a cluster of student apartments, business is brisk.

"Sales are up by 50% at Market Street (compared to the former c-store)," Moloney points out. "We even installed two moveable checkout belts like a regular supermarket, and that has really improved customer flow and speed of service."

Delivering the goods: Keeping his eye on the goal, Moloney, who plays intramural ice hockey with students at least once a week as alternate goalie, never loses sight of four precepts that he believes are central to running a successful college or university operation:

  1. Today's college students demand convenience, flexibility, quality and value in the foods they choose and the meal plans they're offered.
  2. Customer expectations are always changing.
  3. They prefer their products either made fresh in front of them or delivered to their door.
  4. Students expect long service hours. If you don't have a 24/7 location somewhere on campus, you're behind the times.

With these points in mind, Moloney is currently rolling out pizza and sub sandwich delivery service with late hours, 8 p.m. to midnight, available in three of the four campus quads. However, he has set two unusual provisos. "We won't let you call us by phone, it's strictly on-line ordering, and we don't take cash," he says.

"It was about a $10,000 to $15,000 investment in the readers, but it's a service that student surveys had indicated they desired, and it's breaking even after only two months."

More From FoodService Director

Menu Development
health food medicine stethoscope

For the last two years, Chris Studtmann has jockeyed between Northwestern University’s residential dining halls and athletic training tables in his role of executive chef, trying to meet the health and food preferences of both sides. Now, his team is taking best practices developed for the sports teams to the 20,000-plus student population, working with dietitians from the school’s contract company to better sync healthy menu choices with lifestyle needs.

Technomic’s 2016 Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report shows younger consumers are especially tuned in to functional foods that...

Ideas and Innovation
trail mix

We’ve added fueling stations in our units for our workers who didn’t have time to eat or just need a snack. We have areas set up with trail mix, crackers, cookies and water. It helps us avoid people feeling or getting ill, especially when we get closer to exam periods and student workers are studying and not taking the time to eat.

Menu Development
quinoa bowl

In a time of growing health consciousness, it might not be enough anymore for food to be merely filling. According to Technomic’s 2016 Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report , diners are looking for food with a function, such as those with high protein content, immunity-boosting properties, antioxidants, probiotics and more. The data suggests 63% of consumers see these foods as healthier than those without any specific nutritional function—and would be more likely to buy them.

But are those stated preferences translating on an operational level? There, the answer is less clear. Baby...

Ideas and Innovation
reusable coffee cup thermos

We were inspired by a book titled “Influence” to start a sustainable cup program called My Cup. All 15,000 new students receive a reusable cup with their name on it, which they can use at the dining halls. Personalizing helps them invest in the program and actually use it.

FSD Resources