Billy Reid: Business Man

Billy Reid focused on finances to enable him to implement healthy changes in his program.

Accomplishments

BILLY REID has transformed the child nutrition department at SALIDA UNION SCHOOL DISTRICT by:

  • FOCUSING on the business aspect of foodservice and keeping the budget consistently in the black
  • ADDING more choices to the menu mix and focusing on healthy, child-friendly flavor profiles
  • ADDING 32 contracts to provide meals to programs outside the district
  • GAINING national recognition for the district, with six schools receiving the Gold Award of Distinction from the HealthierUS School Challenge

Billy Reid, director of child nutrition services at 2,800-student Salida Union School District in California, had a few other careers before child nutrition. Emigrating from Ireland at 15, Reid worked in restaurants in New York City, first as a busboy, then as a waiter, until he felt the kitchen calling. He graduated from the French Culinary Institute and started his cooking career, which included creating his own line of salad dressings. After a move, Reid attended the California Police Academy just “for the fun of it,” before working at a nonprofit that provides services to adults with learning disabilities.

After seeing a newspaper ad, Reid decided to take his skill set to Salida Union School District, where he has been since 2006. During all of his different employment adventures, Reid learned one thing: business matters.

Numbers crunching: “You can have all the best intentions and all the greatest ideas, but if you don’t have the budget in place to utilize and implement these things, then it’s all for naught,” Reid says. “You have to approach this with a business model and a business mind. I asked my boss on the first day, ‘Explain to me what your budget expectations are of me.’ He seemed quite taken aback by the fact that he was actually being asked. I was told, ‘If you can pay for the custodian at the central kitchen and you have $10,000 left over, I’d be very happy.’ That seemed quite simple.”

So Reid set out to accomplish his goals. For a guy like Reid, who was used to working restaurant hours, what happened during his first month was a bit of a shock. Reid’s first month corresponded with the district’s spring break. For the first time in a while, Reid found himself sitting in an empty kitchen with no customers to serve.

“I was so fresh in the job, I didn’t really know what the job was in its entirety to actually change anything,” Reid recalls. “The phones didn’t ring and there was nobody there to get input from. It was probably the most boring time in my culinary career. I was thinking, there has to be somebody somewhere who needs to eat.”

Increasing participation: This reflection period helped Reid transform the program by giving him the time to focus on the opportunities he had with his department. “Foodservice is all about increasing participation,” he says. “If I don’t do that first, I can’t help anybody.”

When Reid arrived at the district, which is made up of three elementary schools and one middle school, in 2006, participation was 65%. Now participation is around 80%.

The first step was focusing on customer service. “Students aren’t just students. They are customers,” Reid says. “I remember explaining to one of my staff members, ‘How would you feel if you went to a restaurant and the hostess was banging on the table telling you to hurry up?’ People eat here by choice. It’s not just a meal, it’s an environment.”

After focusing on serving the students as customers, Reid started tweaking the menu. Using his culinary training, Reid and the central kitchen staff developed new recipes and flavor profiles.

“Children will eat what children will eat,” says the father of six. “I think the mistake a lot of people are making in this whole obesity movement is that they are, on too broad a scale, putting together flavor profiles that are more adult-based than child-based. You end up alienating children. Kids like pizza, chicken nuggets and hot dogs. They like kid-type food. In our district we have the healthier versions of those things.”

For example, the chicken nuggets are all white meat and made with whole-grain breading. The pizza has a whole-grain crust and low-fat cheese. The hot dogs are made with turkey.

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion
Richard cousins

Compass Group confirmed this morning that CEO Richard Cousins was killed on New Year’s Eve in a small-plane crash off the coast of Australia. He was 58.

Cousins was scheduled to step down as CEO in March, after leading the world’s largest foodservice management company for 11 years. His planned successor, Compass COO Dominic Blakemore, has agreed to assume Cousins’ duties immediately.

“We are deeply shocked and saddened by this terrible news,” Compass Chairman Paul Walsh said in a statement. “It has been a great privilege to know Richard personally and to work with him for...

Menu Development
to-go meals

Drew Allen didn’t hesitate when asked what he expects of noncommercial dining in the future. “Change,” he says. “We have to change with the times and what our guests are looking for.”

Allen, the director of culinary services at Otterbein Senior Lifestyle Choices in Lebanon, Ohio, says the more the residents and guests at Otterbein change, the more diverse eating habits his team has the chance to explore. One of those changing habits, he says, is diners’ growing desire for portable, made-to-order items . That’s a theme borne out by data, too—and is true across dayparts. Roughly 67%...

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.

Ideas and Innovation
email

Communication is key, and [managers] are busy too. One tip I picked up from another director was to label my subject line with the header “action,” “information” or “response” followed by a brief description of the email contents. That way they can filter through their inboxes during their busy days to know which emails need their attention immediately and which they can save to read later.

FSD Resources