John Dettori: Super Service

John Dettori, director of Dining Services for Lackmann Culinary Services at Tiffany & Co. in New York and New Jersey, admits he is a “talker.” It is this skill, he says, that has made him adept at customer service throughout his more than two decades in foodservice. His work managing three Tiffany & Co. dining centers, (one in New York City and two in New Jersey) earned him the honor of being named Lackmann Culinary Services’ Manager of the Year in November 2009.

“John has done some amazing things within our cafeteria operation, bringing it to the next level over this past year with promotional and theme days,” says Ron Pedersen, district manager for Lackmann Culinary Services. “Our guests are excited when visiting our café operations because they know they will always be served by a friendly team member. During the past year our café operations were showing a loss, but with menu improvements, staff training and guest relations the account has seen major improvements in the year-to-date financials and it’s all because of John’s vast knowledge of the foodservice industry.”

Renovation revolution: Dettori says of all his accomplishments with Tiffany’s, one he is most proud of is the gut renovation he managed when he took over the account five years ago.

John Dettori, FSD of the Month, Tiffany and Co., beverage station

“When I first came to Tiffany’s, I went into the New York City location and we gutted it,” Dettori says. “ We went from concrete floors and steel beams and built it from the floor up. I’ve opened a lot of cafeterias, but that one was literally from the ground up. I never had the experience of helping decide ‘are we going to tile this, are we going to paint that?’ When I got there, I worked with the area coordinator and we came up with the layout of the floor. Originally they wanted an open grill, but they wanted only a certain number of staff so I told them an open grill wouldn’t be possible. So we didn’t go with an open grill. I like to give service, but I like to give service more when customers will actually receive it. Since the renovation, that location went from selling about $500 a day to about $1,000 per day, which has since declined to about $800 per day because of recent layoffs.”

The renovation in the city also prompted calls for environmentally friendly disposables, to which the company responded by rolling out a compostable disposables program that launched last month.

“The Going Green program really started five years ago when we opened the Manhattan cafeteria and people were saying, if you’re opening this beautiful facility, we should make some ‘green’ changes,” Dettori says. “They ended up pushing all the right buttons and finally Tiffany’s came in and made a tremendous investment in these disposables. The regular plastic forks are about $20 per case. The corn resin forks are like $45 per case, and we go through a lot of them because we use almost 100% disposables in the city. In New Jersey, I’m pushing for half disposables and half china, but for whatever reason people like the disposable containers. We had unbelievable feedback leading up to the program’s first day. There were people running up to me saying they were so happy we finally made the switch.”

Watching costs: Dettori says he always knew he wanted to be work with food.
“My grandmother was a lunch lady and she was a fantastic cook,” Dettori says. “All my brothers and sisters can cook. That’s how we grew up. From that I always knew this was what I wanted to do.”

After working in restaurants during his teenage years, he graduated from Johnson & Wales with a culinary management degree. After graduation, Dettori worked in several restaurants on Long Island before taking a job with Lackmann Culinary Services.

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
tray number

We created lucky tray days to help create an experience surrounding our brand. The trays are numbered; we pick a number and the winner receives a free lunch. We’ve enlisted the help of one of our coaches, who calls out the random lucky winner, and it drums up a lot of excitement.

Menu Development
recipe revamp chicken soup

As a continuous care retirement community, The Garlands of Barrington in Illinois provides daily foodservice to 270 independent living and skilled nursing care residents, with the majority of sodium restrictions coming from the latter, says Executive Chef Nicola Torres. Instead of cooking two versions of chicken noodle soup—a favorite offered at least twice a week—he reworked his recipe into a flavorful lower-sodium version that appeals to all. “Everybody eats soup, so I created a homemade stock that uses no salt at all, ramping up the flavor with fresh herbs and plenty of vegetables,...

Ideas and Innovation
bus advertising jagermeister

Because many locals use the bus system, we paid for some full bus wraps to advertise [job openings within] our dining services program. The buses go all over campus where students can see them, and to apartments where the public can see them. To top it off, the cost wasn’t much more than newspaper rates.

Managing Your Business
line kings girl goat open kitchen

Open kitchen concepts satisfy guests’ curiosity and desire for transparency. But there are some caveats. Here’s how to create a positive experience for both staff and customers when the walls are down.

Train to serve

With the back-of-house up front, everybody gets hospitality training. “Our cooks understand the food and what they’re doing incredibly, but translating that to guests requires [soft] skills that need to be honed,” says Marie Petulla, co-owner of two restaurants in Southern California.

Dress for a mess

At Girl & The Goat in Chicago, chef-owner Stephanie...

FSD Resources