Harry Dorofee: “Family” Business
HARRY DOROFEE has improved dining services for Flik International Corp. at CLEARY GOTTLIEB STEEN & HAMILTON by:
- MANAGING an off-premise kitchen during a renovation of the main café, which provided food for a temporary café and catering, without a reduction in service
- INCREASING café participation by 11% and catering sales by 23% through renovations and the addition of well-known local brands
- MAKING the program more efficient by combining the catering and café menus into one
- CREATING an environment where associates are encouraged to see themselves as “owners” of their jobs
“We have an [independently operated] Starbucks right in the lobby,” Dorofee says. “[To compete] the barista bar offers services on a different level. All of our teas are loose leaf and hand packed to order. We offer three different espresso blends. The bar also offers homemade gelato, where we can experiment and create fun flavors such as peanut butter and jelly and Mexican hot chocolate. We also instituted a Flik Happy Hour to drive traffic and participation during our slowest times, [during which] we offer $1 coffee, $1 iced coffee and $2 cappuccino drinks.”
One particular point of pride for Dorofee is the offering of New York City cult favorites in the barista bar and main café.
“We love to celebrate local items,” Dorofee says. “We bring in Billy’s Cupcakes from Chelsea. Every Tuesday we feature Doughnut Plant doughnuts at the coffee bar. Thursdays it is pies and cakes from Momofuku. We really like to bring a little of the NYC flavor inside.”
Seeking efficiencies: The renovation also brought Dorofee 50,000 square feet of conference space, including a second community buffet room.
“We have two general buffets outside rows of conference rooms, which we use to set up all food for meetings and events,” Dorofee says. “We’ll set up beverages and utensils in the actual conference room, but all the food is set up in the buffet area. The buffet allows for better control of cost and waste, allowing the firm to pass along savings to clients.”
Dorofee says the team wasn’t sure what impact the extra points of service in the café and extra conference space were going to have on sales and service.
“We could make an educated guess, but it was going to be different than it ever had been,” Dorofee says. “After we opened we worked with Cleary Gottlieb to find efficiencies while still providing great food, people and service.”
The team decided to combine catering and the café, which previously were run with different menu options.
“We get the efficiencies in catering of preparing a unified menu, and the cafeteria gets the benefit of purchasing a larger amount [of product] so we can showcase items we weren’t able to before,” Dorofee says. “Because we are just using one set menu we can utilize people to do other things rather than just tasks that would be involved in setting up two menus. This helps the chefs move beyond their function and interact with the customers more, creating a connection and ultimately loyalty.”
Business owners: Dorofee originally was drawn to foodservice because he liked being creative. He attended culinary school at Johnson & Wales, in Providence, R.I., and after graduation was hired by Flik as a chef. Working as a chef taught him the importance of being an “owner” of his station, a philosophy that has stuck with him.
“He is always open-minded to other people’s ideas and gives them the freedom to showcase who they are through their work and creativeness,” says Molly Cunningham, executive chef for Flik at Cleary Gottlieb. “With his motivation, encouragement and guidance we succeed in our daily tasks of business.”
Dorofee says thinking of all employees as business owners is key.
“If I work the deli, I’m the ‘business owner’ of the deli,” Dorofee says. “The other key to me is to make sure that everyone has the mentor/protégé relationship. Being able to pass along knowledge that I have learned from my mentors is important to me. I’ve been able to grow with the people around me, advancing all of our careers together.
Molly moved from our sous chef to our executive chef when I made the move to foodservice director. One of our other chefs replaced Molly as sous chef. These moves are key to keeping our family environment intact.”