Erwin Schmit: Not lost in translation

Aramark’s Erwin Schmit uses culinary experience to bring the back of the house to the front.

Accomplishments

Erwin Schmit has improved foodservice at Grainger Headquarters by:

  • Increasing participation by more than 20% and average daily sales by nearly 15% through innovative programming
  • Building close relationships with his customers through one-on-one conversations to solicit feedback and responding quickly to requests
  • Using his culinary background to create new takes on successful restaurant ideas
  • Challenging his staff to think innovatively and to remember to always keep improving

A big part of maintaining these relationships with customers is delivering exceptional service, which in Schmit’s case means embracing changes to the menu.

“I don’t let things get stale,” Schmit says. “As soon as some of our branded concepts or the foods we put out get [routine] and it’s noticed, we change things very rapidly before we hear the feedback. I’d rather be proactive and take a risk instead of having to be told that I need to change something.”

Creative concepts: Developing and marketing new concepts is another of Schmit’s strengths, according to Jenna Sawyer, Aramark regional brand manager.

“Erwin is very creative, innovative and extremely meticulous,” Sawyer says. “In our environment, we have a pretty captive audience, therefore change is very important to keep them coming back. It is also equally important to create an atmosphere where people want to dine during their workdays or we will lose their business. [Erwin has the ability to] create station destinations in a café environment that are trendy [by creating what feels like] retail restaurants,” she adds.

Among the concepts that Schmit has developed and implemented are Bombay Bibs, fresh lettuce wraps; Prime Cuts, which offers prime rib sandwiches; and Ascalano’s Pizza, which allows guests to build their own flatbread pizzas or sandwiches. Schmit says he’s found the greatest success satisfying customers by looking at what restaurants are doing and improving on it.

“Say you are driving by a restaurant and see a sign for something they are doing,” Schmit says. “My process is, OK, they are doing that. What can I do to do the same, only make it much better?’ Then the key is to market what we’ve done to make that item better. The food and presentation make the items special. When we create a concept we also create the signage for how we’re going to market it and how we’re going to set it up. Plus, we look at the investment. You have to spend money to make things look nice. You don’t just want to throw things out there. I believe that pride of presentation comes from my chef background.”

Challenge extended: Schmit also uses his culinary background to engage with his staff.

“My enthusiasm of working with staff also comes from being a chef and working with chefs,” Schmit says. “With Aramark I was a regional chef for a period of time. I would go in and coach, train and develop staff members so that No. 1, the relationship between the two of us would grow and No. 2, they would have an understanding about how these things should be done. I think I have a higher standard than the normal person. I [manage] like it’s my name on the door and it is my name with the customers, so those are the standards that have to be met. It’s all about the details. You can do a million things right, but it’s really in the details of what [the staff] are doing. I try to really coach and train them that the details are what it is all about.

“I ask them what their favorite restaurant is and why they go there,” Schmit adds. “Nine times out of 10 they go there because of the service, food and the cleanliness. If two of those are right, you’ll go back. If all three of them aren’t there then you’ll just walk out. It’s the same standards here. I coach staff to look at things as a customer.”

DeFilippo-Flynn says Schmit’s mentoring and coaching attitude has led to his promoting four of his associates into supervisory positions within the organization. Schmit says his management philosophy is based on challenging his staff to always be thinking how to make things better.

“I’ve had some great mentors over the years and my management philosophy comes from them,” Schmit says. “I try to challenge people. I don’t think there has ever been a point where I’ve finally felt that things are done, a point where I can’t make this hamburger any better. One of my mentors said if you can’t find one thing wrong with what somebody is doing to improve them you are not doing your job. I really try to challenge my staff to think the same way.”

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

This semester, the East Quad dining team at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor is taking steps to offer more authentic global cuisine , Michigan Daily reports.

The team has partnered with the Office of Student Life to start a conversation with students on how best to create and serve Middle Eastern and North African cuisine. Additionally, the university invited chefs from Japan and India to campus to help its chefs create more authentic recipes.

The school’s push for more accurate global cuisine was partially inspired by an international food event that got cancelled...

Industry News & Opinion
Madison food truck

The Madison Metropolitan School District in Madison, Wis., has partnered with a local organization to debut a food truck that will serve healthy, locally sourced lunch options for Madison high school students, according to The Capital Times .

The truck, which was donated by the Emmi Roth Cheese Co., will visit four high schools Tuesday through Friday, spending a day at each campus. Students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch can use the food truck as they would the school cafeteria for no-cost or discounted meals.

Members of MMSD and partner organization REAP Food...

Industry News & Opinion

Identifying prospective employees may be less challenging for foodservice operators than getting would-be recruits to complete the hiring process , according to a new study of why job applicants bail.

The report shows that nearly three out of fours applicants (74%) will drop their effort to be hired if they suspect management is racist, and two out of three (62%) will flee if they learn of sexual harassment allegations. Roughly the same proportion (65%) will halt their pursuit if they encounter indications of a gender gap in pay.

About half (45%) of candidates won’t show...

Menu Development
zoodles

Here’s how two operations are spotlighting produce this season.

Oodles of zoodles

Binghamton University underscored its growing focus on plant-based options with a recent zoodle pop-up on campus. The pop-up, which served vegetable noodle bowls in vegan and vegetarian varieties, sold out of the dishes in four hours. The Binghamton, N.Y., school aims to add zoodles to its regular menu in the fall.

A buffet boost

The dining team at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, recently re-evaluated its buffet offerings with an eye toward adding healthy options. It updated the fruit and...

FSD Resources