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

The ability to translate what goes on in the back of the house to the front of the house is the key to Erwin Schmit’s success. As foodservice director for Aramark at Grainger Headquarters in Lake Forest, Ill., Schmit has used his talent of translation to make a big impact at the company’s world headquarters, as well as six satellite locations in northern Illinois.

“Erwin has a passion for great food and service, and it shows from the minute you walk into any of his operations,” says Della DeFilippo-Flynn, district manager for Aramark. “He provides inspiration and coaching to our young managers and chefs within the organization.”

Account transition: One big effort for Schmit, according to DeFilippo-Flynn, was increasing participation after Aramark took over the account in 2010—an endeavor that Schmit says hinged on finding out what the customers’ wants and needs were.

“The biggest thing we had to do was find out what the customers wanted and then find out if those wants and needs were financially possible,” Schmit says. “We had to look at items with a high margin and ask, can we sell them? And if the margins are low, can we sell a lot of them? That is basically what we did.”

Under Schmit’s leadership participation increased by more than 20% since he joined the account. Average daily sales increased by 15%.

“There was a lot of trial and error when it came to the food program and staffing, and we took a lot of risks,” Schmit adds.

Taking risks is something Schmit has been doing since his foodservice career began. As a teenager Schmit worked in restaurants when he still was planning to become a dentist.

“At that young age the owner of the restaurant where I worked was buying a Mercedes-Benz and I said, ‘wow, I have to go to dentist school for years [to get that] and [the restaurant owner] already has it,” Schmit says. “So I thought [foodservice] was a lucrative career at the beginning.”

Schmit got a culinary degree from Kendall College and worked in restaurants and country clubs before making the switch to non-commercial foodservice. Schmit’s background as a culinarian has allowed him to translate what he has done in the back of the house to the front of the house.

“In my mind I’m a very innovative and creative person,” Schmit says. “I don’t like being bored. This is my playground. I can work with my chefs in the kitchen and then go to the front of the house and market the asparagus to make it sound good. It’s just a joy to come to work. I rarely call in sick. I just love dealing with the staff and with the customers.”

Building relationships: Schmit feels his relationships with his customers are one of his greatest accomplishments at Grainger.

“The customers have trust in what I do,” Schmit says. “There is a huge trust factor that goes along with not only my customers here but also with my client as well. At the beginning, it was a little hard because [the customers] didn’t know how to approach me. The trust was really built in stages. If I say I’m going to do something I do it, and I follow up with it afterward to see if it met the customers’ standards. I ask them if there is anything that can be changed. They know that I’m responsible and accountable. I tell them all the time that I wear my heart on my sleeve. If there is an issue I’ll take care of it.”

More From FoodService Director

Sponsored Content
kid eating seafood

From High Liner Foods. School lunches are a staple of American education. But over the last several years, school meals have gotten a makeover to make them fresher, healthier and tastier.

One item making a splash on K-12 lunch menus is seafood. The USDA Dietary Guidelines recommends that Americans, including children, consume at least two seafood meals a week of at least 4-ounces of cooked seafood. Almost 80% to 90% of Americans, however, are not getting enough seafood in their diets.

But many students may be reluctant to eat seafood, since it’s often less familiar than...

Ideas and Innovation
Thai beef salad

In Denver, especially, the local trend is huge. Not just local companies, but what some of us are calling “hyperlocal,” using vendors and companies that use local sourcing inside their products. Many times companies are local, but getting products shipped from all over the United States or the world, finding products that use local grains, local oil manufacturers, even purchasing the shipping boxes from a local company makes a huge difference in quality and environmental impact. Sourcing out the right products and balancing the give and take is always hard, but allowing local companies who...

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...

FSD Resources