Jeff Shaffer: Creating confidence

Jeff Shaffer's trust in his employees fosters innovation at Reed Smith.

Accomplishments

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.”

More From FoodService Director

Menu Development
usa map regions

From global flavors to clean labels, it’s clear that some buzzworthy noncommercial menu trends are universal. But FoodService Director ’s 2016 surveys have revealed some noteworthy differences within segments in the Northeast, South, Midwest and West regions. We combed through data from our College and University Census, Hospital Census and Long-Term Care/Senior Living Census for the most surprising variations in menu trends and expectations.

1. Plant-based dishes are on the rise at Midwestern colleges and universities

Seventy-seven percent of C&U operators in this region say...

Industry News & Opinion

Ithaca College is turning to new solutions to address overcrowding at a dining hall that is already understaffed, The Ithacan reports .

The Ithaca, N.Y., school's Terrace Dining Hall has seen a large influx of students this year after being renovated, causing lines to wrap around the dining hall.

To ease congestion, Sodexo Area General Manager Jeffrey Scott told The Ithacan that the eatery has added a separate entree line, as well as signage displaying menu items at less-crowded food stations in an effort to draw students to the other side of the dining hall.

The...

Menu Development
mac cheese pizza

Anybody think the popularity of mac and cheese has played out? Anyone?

More likely, foodservice directors are trying to bake new life into the comfort staple by tweaking the presentation and components. Here’s a snapshot of how that rejuvenation effort looks in streetside restaurants.

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...

FSD Resources