Charles Anderson: Mission Accomplished

In Clark County, Nev., administrators tapped a principal and ex-military man to turn around the district’s foodservice program.


CHARLES ANDERSON has turned CLARK COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT's foodservices into a profitable enterprise by:

  • Reorganizing staff, reducing payroll, and making procurement, production and distribution of meals more cost-effective
  • Restructuring the bid process to take advantage of price fluctuations
  • Investing in program enhancements that ensure more children will be able to afford school meals
  • Challenging employees to perform at a higher level and then recognizing them for their efforts 

Cutting staff: The team has tackled each challenge in systematic fashion, starting with reducing staff.

“When I arrived here we had two high schools,” Anderson explains. “Generally, we can run a high school kitchen with six to eight people. The two high schools had 24 employees each. They couldn’t figure out why they weren’t making any money. We can’t afford to have people in jobs unless they are being productive. That’s what’s killing so many districts right now.”

Anderson also reduced staff in the central kitchen, mostly by attrition, to improve the meals-per-man-hour rate.

Next, the department cut three delivery routes in order to make sure that trucks were being used as efficiently as possible. Anderson had discovered that because of poor organization, trucks were sometimes leaving the central kitchen and warehouse only half full.

The team also reduced warehouse inventory significantly, and Beck, working with the purchasing department, reorganized the bid processes to make them more cost-effective.

Anderson also hit on a way to get a better handle on prices, particularly of volatile items like milk and orange juice. After the district saw a 36% increase in the price of milk from one bid to the next, the department began to keep track of milk futures.

“We kind of got back-doored on that one, and I vowed that it wasn’t going to happen again,” says Anderson. What he found out was that there was a three-month period in which the price of milk actually decreased. But with an annual bid, the district wasn’t seeing any benefit from that price drop. The solution: switch to a quarterly bid adjustment.

The department also has made food safety and training priorities, creating positions for an inspector general and a training officer, and last summer all school cafeteria managers and department heads became certified in ServSafe.

Protecting value: “Here at CCSD we employ not only ROI, which every businessman knows, but VOI—value of investment,” Anderson says. “Is it worth the cost even though there is no revenue produced?”

One thing Anderson says he will not do, however, is cut costs or programs at the expense of the students. The district spends more than $2 million a year to help students and their parents. For example, the district absorbs the extra cost of preparing special meals for students with various medical needs, to the tune of $250,000. The department eliminated the reduced-priced category, instead qualifying all students who fit into that category for free meals.

“The bottom line is, we’re putting a lot of money back into the system to benefit the students,” he says, adding that the cost savings realized through operational efficiencies has allowed the department to do that. What it also has allowed staff to do is make capital improvements in the central kitchen—the department has replaced or upgraded nearly every piece of equipment in the kitchen—which, in turn, makes the kitchen operate more efficiently.

Anderson is very fond of reminding visitors that the CCSD foodservice department is successful not because of what he has done but rather what the people who work there have accomplished. He tries to make sure that top performers are recognized.

“We can’t give them monetary awards because of union rules, but we can and do give them awards, certificates and citations and we find ways to let everyone know that these people are being recognized,” he says.

One award that is easily recognizable is the manager’s badge. When an employee is promoted to manager, along with a certificate he or she receives a bronze badge, to be placed on the employee’s ID card—which must be worn at all times. After five years, the manager’s badge is swapped for a silver one, and after 10 years that badge is traded for a gold one.

Cafeterias and kitchens are inspected regularly and those that receive no demerits in two consecutive inspections are given a plaque to display in the school. Anderson says this recognition has contributed to a 310% increase—in one year—in the number of demerit-free inspections.  

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