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

Menu Development
sam kass peter romeo

We’ve heard it time and again—millennials are extremely conscious about what they eat. They want to know what is in their food, where it is from, how it was made and more. And, as we’re learning, Gen Zers are even more aware and information-demanding about the food they eat than their older counterparts.

Hitting those higher-quality food standards is no easy feat. But it’s becoming a must, said chef Sam Kass—known for being the White House chef for the Obamas, a senior White House policy advisor on nutrition policy while he cooked, and currently the senior food analyst for NBC News...

Sponsored Content
chicken veggies recipes

From Tyson Food Service.

With operators becoming increasingly strapped for time and labor, it’s a strain to prepare every aspect of a menu item back-of-house or keep the menu populated with a variety of options. While it doesn’t mean they have to cut corners when developing new items, operators can use more versatile items that are simple enough to apply across the menu to save on labor and cost as well as be more efficient.

With versatile proteins, operators can increase menu opportunities without kitchen complexity, and drive new customer traffic or increase the number...

Industry News & Opinion

An audit into Kennesaw State University’s dining services revealed the university accrued roughly $2 million from off-campus students paying for meal plans as part of their semester fees, according to a report by Fox 5 Atlanta .

Meal plans at the Kennesaw, Ga., university are automatically assessed to students whether they live on campus or not. The university does not refund unused meals, draining the pockets of commuter students each semester.

“I think it’s ridiculous that we pay all this tuition and then we’re here paying another big fee,” commuter student Emmanuel...

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...

FSD Resources