Jeff Shaffer: Creating confidence
Jeff Shaffer has improved the foodservice at Reed Smith by:
- fostering a work environment that encourages trust between team members
- creating and maintaining a rooftop terrace garden, which provides the café with fresh produce during the summer months
- implementing a comprehensive home meal replacement program, where customers place orders at lunch to pick up take away dinners
- introducing new concepts quarterly for the café's rotating station, which has helped increase revenue by 8.9%
The garden isn’t the only place Shaffer sources local produce. The account also works with a farming cooperative called Penn’s Corner, which provides produce from within 100 miles of the city. “It’s been a great help having a partnership with them,” he says. During peak growing season, the operation purchases about 20% of its products locally. “It’s been great to have local items in the café and being able to advertise it and share it with our guests. They really enjoy it and know it comes from the area..”
Home meal replacement: Another initiative that has made customers happy is home meal replacements. Shaffer says there was a demand for the service from the associates at Reed Smith who work late. Since the café is only open for breakfast and lunch, those associates were left with few options.
“Employees can pick anything off our lunch menu on that particular day and we’ll package it, individually label it and put in a microwavable container for them to come pick up at their convenience,” Shaffer says. “If they are working late they can come pick it up and pop it in their office microwaves or take dinner home to their family. It’s been very popular.”
Shaffer says customers place their home meal orders when they come to the café during lunch. Menus are posted on Fridays for the following week so customers can plan ahead. “That way they can look ahead and plan and if they know they are running the kids to soccer practice that night they know they can order a meal from us, take it home, pop it in the microwave and have a good quality ‘home cooked’ meal without having to hit McDonalds. Plus the associates who are working late aren’t picking something out of the vending machine or something brown bagged from home.”
Shaffer says another part of that program that has really taken off, especially during the summertime, is packaging meals from the café’s premium grill, which is a station that offers steaks, nicer cuts of fish and seafood such as soft shell crabs.
“If someone wants to pick up a couple of steaks and take them home and barbecue them themselves they can do that,” Shaffer says. “I have a customer who faithfully comes in and buys our nice 2-inch rib-eyes every Friday and takes them home. We call that our Butcher Shop To Go. It’s a great convenience for them. The customers know they are getting quality stuff here. It’s fresh. I get local beef, local pork and things like that.”
New concepts: The premium grill was introduced last year to great success, says Shaffer.
“[Premium Grill] is part of our cook-to-order grill,” Shaffer says. “We have a glass case that showcases cut steaks, fish, soft shell crabs, veal chops, lamb chops, things that customers would usually have to go outside a corporate café to get. If they want to impress a client and take them to a steakhouse, we can offer them that same steak with the same quality and they don’t have to leave the building. Those entrées are packaged together with side dishes like fresh vegetables and starches. It changes daily.
“The premium grill has been around about a year. It’s been especially popular now that we have offered seasonal items like the soft shell crabs. We offered that for the first time this year and they’ve been selling like crazy.”
As a Parkhurst account there are standing café stations, such as the Parkside Diner, which serves homestyle entrées. Where Shaffer has really been able to innovate is at a station that allows for rotating concepts.
“We have concepts such as a taqueria, which had hand-rolled burritos with fresh salsas,” Shaffer says. “We’ve also done what we call a bento bowl, which is a stir-fry action station. We’re getting ready to launch a build-a-burger program, which is a customized burger with a lot of different meat and topping options. It’s always changing. I run the concepts for two weeks and then change them out. Then every quarter I bring in a new idea that the customers haven’t seen before. It’s a great way to test a few different concepts out before we commit to doing something companywide. It allows for creativity.”