Carlos Rivera: Passion Project

Rivera uses the same space to offer a fresh noodle bar, with choices of broth and vegetables and a baked potato bar that, he says, takes it up a notch by using sweet potatoes or Yukon Gold potatoes and stuffing them with fresh vegetables. Another successful program Rivera implemented was a Friday Flavors of the World station, designed to keep Friday just as exciting as the rest of the week.

“On Fridays, it’s very normal for your sales to go down,” Rivera says. “So I wanted to do something different. I eliminated the salad bar on Fridays. I put chafers into the salad bar and I created Flavors of the World. We’ve done things such as Indian and Japanese cuisine, all sold by the pound. My sales have gone up 15% on Fridays as a result. I think what normally happens is that when managers menu, they have a  “thank God it’s Friday” mentality and the menu reflects that. I wanted to make the menu just as exciting on Fridays as it is on Mondays, and it paid off.”

This switch and others like it are the kinds of things that make Rivera stand out, according to Ed Jakubiak, district manager for CulinArt.

“I think Carlos has a genuine passion for the industry and the people he works with,” Jakubiak says. “ He really knows how to develop great relationships with his clients and staff. He always takes the CulinArt programs and implements them successfully and takes them above and beyond.”

Another successful program Rivera implemented was designed to address the recession. Rivera says they introduced breakfast punch cards to encourage customers to buy breakfast.

“About 500 cards get punched and honored during a two-week period,” Rivera says. “The program just started six months ago. They come in, get a punch for spending at least $1.50 and after 10 punches they get a free breakfast, up to $3. But the thing is, they’re not just spending the $1.50, they’re buying more items. We can feature a spinach and feta cheese omelet with home fries for $2.75 and they will buy it—when maybe this was a customer who would just buy a piece of fruit.”

Choosing china: Rivera has also been heavily involved in implementing the cafeteria’s green initiatives, including a switch to all china.

“My push right now is to use only china,” Rivera says. “The only concern from the customer’s point of view is how they get from point A to their office with china, but we’ll get that solved. China is always the best solution when going green. We have 26 pantries on 17 floors, so we’re reworking them so they have bussing tubs where people can deposit their trays and china. That’s saved us about $30,000 because we haven’t had to buy as many disposables.”

Rivera says his department is about 75% of the way done with implementing the green initiatives the department wants to put in place. They’ve made the switch to environmentally friendly disposable cups. He says they have about 25% left to complete, such as switching their clamshells to environmentally friendly containers and increasing their local purchases.

“We’re always going to make an effort to offer products that our customers are looking for,” Rivera says. “We are very big with sustainability right now. We use local products from Long Island and New Jersey. We put signs on our food any time we make something using local products. There is no relation to cost; if it’s local and good we will use it. About 25% of our purchases come from local items, and about 30% of our salad bar is purchased locally, season permitting.”

Open door policy: Not only does Rivera want to be available to his customers, he wants his employees to feel comfortable coming to him. The last seven years, his employee retention rate has been more than 70%.

“I try to create a work environment where our employees have ownership for what they do,” Rivera says. “I tell them, ‘I would never have you do something I would never be willing to do myself.’ Education is key. If you don’t prepare your people, they’re going to fail. If they fail, you’re go­ing to fail. Give me anybody with a good attitude and I’ll train them. I’d rather have that than someone who thinks they know it all and has a bad attitude.”

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

The USDA analyzed the efficacy of using Medicaid data to certify students for free or reduced-price lunch, a provision included in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Participating states and districts reported conflicting data on changes in the percentage of students certified, number of meals served, federal reimbursements and certification costs.

The method is used as an alternative to household applications and data matching with other public benefit programs to streamline the certification of more low-income students. The program was first piloted statewide in Kentucky...

Ideas and Innovation
kids students cafeteria line

While summer feeding programs are commonplace in school districts across the country, foodservice operators still struggle to get the word out and kids in.

Many districts are scaling back or discontinuing their summer feeding programs due to low participation, citing staffing costs and other issues that make it difficult to break even and provide a profitable program.

“We need to find a way to encourage that participation,” Tom Freitas—foodservice director for Traverse City Area Public Schools in Traverse City, Mich.—told Record Eagle News . “We are open to ideas as long as...

Industry News & Opinion

Students and union representatives are petitioning Eastern Michigan University’s plan to outsource its foodservice operations, calling for the school to delay such a move to allow for further discussion with stakeholders, MLive reports .

EMU last week announced a tentative agreement to hand over its residential, catering and retail foodservices to Chartwells, a deal the university’s interim president avered would enable the school to expand and upgrade its eateries while maintaining high food quality, MLive says.

Opponents of the plan say they are concerned about what they...

Sponsored Content
whole grain pasta foodservice menu

From Barilla.

With younger consumers eager to explore new flavors and better-for-you options, whole-grain pasta is winning greater acceptance in American diets.

As more and more college and university students seek out whole grains in their meals, dishes featuring whole grains are on-deck to become menu mainstays.

At the University of Iowa, whole-grain foods have won general acceptance, says Barry Greenberg, executive chef for university dining. Two marketplace dining facilities on campus offer whole-grain pasta as a regular option and incorporate it into baked...

FSD Resources