Eric Goldstein: Big Apple Operations

New York City’s Eric Goldstein takes a data-driven approach to foodservice.

Accomplishments

ERIC GOLDSTEIN has transformed the NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION by:

  • Creating a team that is made up of diverse backgrounds and changing the department’s management structure
  • Using a data-driven approach to study the foodservice program and make identified improvements
  • Increasing participation in breakfast and summer meals by using innovative techniques such as mobile trucks
  • Gradually making changes to the menus to gain student acceptability while increasing the healthfulness of the items served

As Frank Sinatra famously sang about New York City, “If I can make it there, I’m gonna make it anywhere.” That certainly rings true for Eric Goldstein, chief executive of The Office of School Support Services for the New York City Department of Education. The department serves 860,000 meals a day at 1,709 schools. “It’s hard to wrap your mind around that,” Goldstein admits. And if running foodservice for the nation’s largest school district wasn’t enough, Goldstein also is in charge of transportation and high school sports.

Building a team: Goldstein was hired in 2004 as a deputy overseeing food, transportation and high school sports. He was promoted to chief executive in 2007. Before joining NYC schools, Goldstein had no food experience. He had worked in England for different companies that focused on publishing and private equity, among other professions. “I have a very disjointed career,” Goldstein says. “Food found me. I’m not one of those people who said, ‘I want to be in the food business.’ I love to eat but food was more of a hobby. I came to this job more from a business and operational background. I earned my Ph.D. in food on the job.”

Because of Goldstein’s business background, he saw that the department could look at its financial side in a different light. “School food is this quasi-corporate entity. Even though we are in the Department of Education, we’ve got revenue, expenses and a product,” he says. “Typically government looks at revenue and expenses separately. We said, ‘I’ve got private sector experience and a lot of other people have private sector experience so let’s start looking at revenue and expense together through a retail lens.’ We put the right management team in place and brought in some outside talent.

“I think we’re structured well,” Goldstein adds. “We have a great team of people who are smart and dedicated. We have a real wonderful chili, if you look at us in a food term.”

One of Goldstein’s major initiatives when he took over as chief executive was to hire people who didn’t necessarily have a foodservice background but who had business expertise. Goldstein hired one deputy who was a high-ranking officer in the Marines to work on the department’s logistical side. Goldstein says this “enables us to really focus and think about how we address our business through a retail lens.”

In addition to hiring diverse talent, Goldstein reorganized the department’s management structure. The department was divided into four categories: field operations, compli-
ance, food and food support and services. Each of New York City’s five boroughs has its own regional director. Following the reorganization, Goldstein says communication improved because a process was put in place for the flow of information.

Numbers crunching: After the people were in place, Goldstein focused on developing metrics. The original plan was for each cafeteria to run its own profit and loss statement. “One problem we had was that because of our systems, our data is about three months slow,” Goldstein says. “And I realized our people didn’t know how to handle a P&L or read a P&L. It was a totally ineffectual tool. So I said, ‘What’s a really good tool that we can nucleate our thinking around?’ The answer was cost per meal.”

Now each school computes its cost per meal, based on food cost only. Managers can then use that data to determine how their schools rank when compared with similar schools.

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

Noncommercial foodservice operations and other employers would be spared from costly new overtime pay regulations if 21 states succeed in the legal challenge they jointly filed yesterday.

The lawsuit asks the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas to set aside the rules, which are scheduled to take effect on Dec. 1.

If the court rejects the request, restaurants and other businesses will be required after that date to pay overtime to any salaried employee who works more than 40 hours in a week and earns less than $47,476 on an annual basis.

The...

Industry News & Opinion

The new unpaid-balance policy at Canon-McMillan School District in Pittsburgh is making waves after a former cafeteria worker sounded off about the practice on social media.

Stacy Koltiska said she quit her job with the district after being forced to take hot meals away from students who owed lunch money, CBS News reports .

Under a new policy that was implemented at Canon-McMillan this year, students whose lunch debt exceeds $25 are not allowed to receive a hot lunch. Children in grades K-6 are given a sandwich in its place, and older students receive no lunch. A recent...

Industry News & Opinion

Due to low participation in its lunch program, Talawanda School District in Oxford, Ohio, is raising the price of school meals this year, Patch.com reports .

The cost of school lunches will see a 30-cent increase, half of which is being enacted to cover the district’s budget. The other half is being required by the government to cover the cost of free and reduced-price lunches provided to low-income families. Prior to this year, the district had not raised prices since 2009.

The district’s cafeterias have experienced a decline in student participation since implementing the...

Industry News & Opinion

Six Philadelphia hospitals were honored by the city’s department of public health for healthy food initiatives introduced as part of the local Good Food, Healthy Hospitals program, bizjournals.com reports .

The hospitals each debuted healthy measures to their dining services, such as lowering the cost of water bottles and seltzers, and offering dishes that incorporate local produce. One hospital was also honored for operating its own organic farm.

The facilities that were honored were:

Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia Cancer Treatment Centers of America’s Eastern...

FSD Resources