David Friend: Friendly Initiator

A master blueprint: As in any city, large or small, construction and renovation are ongoing and WVU is, in many respects, a small city. Thanks to Friend’s efforts, it’s now one with a master growth plan for dining services. Over the next five years, he will oversee 13 new operations or renovations including several on three regional campuses.

“Two of our regional campuses were turned into self-operated locations versus contract,” he explains. “The third was already self-op; we went into it to help out, but it has since come under our operations. Potomac State College in Kaiser, WV, transitioned under Jeff’s directorship. Two years later, we took over Jackson’s Mill Conference Center. Then, two years ago, we assisted West Virginia Tech, in Montgomery, to become self-operated. All revenues stay on-site, but we help with administration and procurement of food by letting them use our purchasing program. We’re also providing support and direction for those units. We don’t charge a thing since they’re regional campuses of our university and we want to increase their profitability.”

Now, Potomac State is building a residential dining facility as well as a retail outlet. Since it has become much more profitable, reserves the department has accrued are being used to cover the costs of the renovation. Jackson Mills is renovating a 300-seat dining room and adding new meeting rooms. West Virginia Tech plans to open a new food court in the fall of 2007. Friend is overseeing all three of these projects, while managing some renovations of his own. “This summer, we’re renovating Boreman Bistro from a traditional cafeteria to a food court,” Friend points out. “Production will be at each point of service so there’s interaction between production personnel and students. There will be demo cooking, a deli with items made to order, a Healthy ‘U’ station, plus soup and salad—all geared to provide healthy options.”

Healthy ‘U’ debut: As a matter of fact, creatively providing healthy options has earned national recognition for Friend and his department. Since West Virginia has the dubious honor of being ranked third in the nation among states with a high level of heart-related diseases, WVU’s president, Dr. David Hardesty, Jr., wanted a campus-wide wellness initiative to be created. Rising to the challenge, Friend and his staff developed the Healthy “U” program, which was a gold medal winner in the 2006 Loyal E. Horton Dining Awards from the National Association of College & University Food Services (NACUFS). More recently, Healthy “U” garnered a gold medal from Welcoa (Wellness Companies of America). It was eligible for competition since WVU has become a “Well Workplace.”

“The Healthy ‘U’ program has multiple components with wellness centers in each of the residential dining facilities,” Friend explains. “Right at the beginning, I hired our first full-time dietitian, Nettie Freshhour, two years ago. Each of the centers has a food pyramid displayed along with 12 brochures packed with specific information, plus a different 2,000-calorie diet sheet each day. Some participants don’t follow it rigidly for all three meals, but initially we thought about 50 people in each operation would take advantage but now there are at least 100 at each site. In Café Evansdale—our dining center for the largest residential facility—we’ve served as many as 500 when we menued raspberry chicken.”

Employee inclusion: The Healthy “U” program has also been geared to the needs of all dining services employees with components that combine walking activities (such as complete 100 miles in 100 days) with a chance to win a prize in a random drawing; funding health screenings with release time given by the department, and more.

Friend says revenue has increased 25%, from $16 million to $20 million, on the main campus alone. Part of that can be attributed to an increase in enrollment of about 500 students. But it’s also directly related to an increase in off-campus meal plan participation. “We [were selling] about 5,000 meal plans when I launched an aggressive campaign to increase participation [among] off-campus students,” he says. “Off-campus sales increased 96.4% for the ’05-’06 school year with a 230% further increase in ’06-’07. Prior to my becoming director, there was not a comprehensive program in place to sell off-campus meal plans.”

Friend says his true love—besides Nancy, his wife—is high-end special event catering, so he’s looking forward to the 2009 opening of a $25-million alumni center. “I see great potential growth for catering in addition to the more than 4,000 events each year that account for more than $1.3 million in annual sales today. A four- or five-course meal really allows you to show your creativity.”

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

As part of a 10-year contract to run Eastern Michigan University’s foodservice, Chartwells will invest $5 million in the Ypsilanti, Mich., university, as well as provide it with $18 million in capital improvements, according to a report by the Detroit Free Press .

The university’s board of regents approved the contract on Tuesday, citing the new revenue as an opportunity to expand and improve campus foodservice. EMU’s website indicates the partnership will allow for more student input as well as the introduction of food trucks and improved technology.

“The primary reason...

Industry News & Opinion

Students at the University of Virginia will soon be able to use part of their meal plans to buy fresh food grown locally, the result of a new partnership between the school and Greens to Grounds, a nonprofit organization run by students.

Starting in the fall, students will be able to use their meal plan “Plus Dollars” to purchase premade food boxes from Greens to Grounds. The boxes, which come in “snack” or “produce” options, contain a variety of vegetables and fruits with a different weekly menu. The packages typically cost no more than $10, and students will be able to place box...

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...

FSD Resources