Jon Lewis: Remarkable Service

Ask any foodservice employee on 20,000-student Ball State University’s Muncie, Ind., campus and they’ll tell you Jon Lewis has served them well. As director of dining, Lewis believes if his employees feel valued, they will do the same for their customers. It’s this service-oriented mentality that has led to some very positive changes in Lewis’ three years as director.

“[When I became director] I think we were doing a lot of things right and I think we were providing good service, and yet we were being criticized,” Lewis says. “You’re never going to be perfect, but I thought service was an area that we ought to get right. With this generation of students, we knew eventually the campus would also see the importance of service. So it really just rose to the top as a priority that we needed to work on.”

Remarkable service: To inspire the level of service Lewis wanted, he knew his employees needed to feel their efforts were valued. Thus, the Remarkable Service Award was born.

“Providing remarkable service was good and all, but if you don’t identify the people who exemplify remarkable service then we’re really not taking it full circle,” Lewis says. “So we’re using our quality assurance team, which has been in place for a long time and includes seven students who go out and evaluate our food and report back. We asked that same group to identify people who they think provide remarkable service. Once a month they make a recommendation and then the management team decides which of the recommendations is the best. Then we surprise the employee on the job in front of their colleagues and give them a framed certificate, balloons, flowers and really make a big deal out of it. It is interesting to see the reactions from our staff. We have built a situation where our staff really appreciate getting the recognition, to the point that women break down and cry because they’re so honored.”

The program has been so successful, Lewis says, the university started a similar program called Roll Out the Red. The campus even recognized dining services as an example of a campus department that provides good service. Lewis attributes this reputation to the department’s focus on training.

“We were doing a lot of training, but we decided we’d better work on service,” Lewis says. “We bring all of our staff together for one day of training before school starts. Three years ago, we decided that during that time we would only do service training. We bring in a nationally recognized speaker who talks about service.”

Lewis learned how important service was from his  beginning in foodservice.  Lewis grew up in a resort community near Benton Harbor, Mich., where he worked in small resorts’ restaurants as a bus boy, cook’s assistant and chef. He graduated from Purdue University’s restaurant/hotel/ institutional management program and moved right into university foodservice with a position at Northern Illinois University. He’s been in university foodservice ever since.

“I thought college foodservice was a pleasant environment to be involved with,” Lewis says. “I thought it would be fun to be in a university environment, and it is.”

FSD of the Month, Jon Lewis, Ball State University, October 2009Employee feeding: Through his years in the university setting, Lewis knew the importance of keeping his employees happy. One way he knew he could accomplish that was by offering them an employee meal plan.

Lewis says he was surprised when he became director that there was no meal plan option for employees. Em­ployees now get one complimentary meal after working at least six hours.

“Our employees couldn’t enjoy the food unless they paid for it,” Lewis says. “That, to me, was kind of counter intuitive and counter to what I’ve experienced throughout my career. So I lobbied for and instituted an employee meal plan, and now our employees can eat the food they prepare just like at any other restaurant in foodservice.”

This change immediately endeared Lewis to his employees.

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

Amherst-Pelham Regional School District in Amherst, Mass., is updating its lunch debt policy to no longer single out students, MassLive reports.

Under the new policy, students with lunch debt will be given the same meals as their peers, regardless of how much they owe. School officials will also be communicating directly with parents of students who have accumulated debt instead of through the students themselves.

The updated policy comes just before U.S. school districts will be required to publicly list their lunch debt policies, per new USDA requirements starting July 1...

Menu Development
eureka

Since California’s state motto is “Eureka!” it seems fitting that a recent conversation with the director of hospitality at San Diego’s Palomar Health led to the biggest aha moment I’ve had in a long time.

I called Jim Metzger in late April with the purpose of discussing Palomar’s recent commitment to the goal of making 60% of its total menu plant-based by this summer. It seemed a lofty number, and I was curious how the public health system planned to get there.

But my personal eureka didn’t come while we were talking about how Palomar had cleaned up the impulse-buy zones...

Industry News & Opinion

Labeling foods with indulgent buzzwords such as “sweet sizzlin’” and “crispy” can lead consumers to make healthier food choices , according to a recent study out of Stanford University .

In the fall 2016 study, researchers labeled vegetables in one of the school’s dining halls using terms from four categories: basic, healthy restrictive, healthy positive or indulgent.

The green beans, for example, were listed as “green beans” for basic, “light ‘n’ low-carb green beans and shallots” for healthy restrictive, “healthy energy boosting green beans and shallots” for healthy...

Ideas and Innovation
sparkling water

Our carbonated soft drink sales at Earls.67 reflect a national trend; we’re continually down on carbonated soft drink sales by 8% to 9% on an annual basis,” says Cameron Bogue, beverage director at the contemporary-casual chain Earls Kitchen + Bar.

The issue with spa water

Many operators are intrigued with the offering, but they are learning that infused water can’t be offered at a cost to guests unless there is added value beyond cut-up fruit. Bogue says, “I was adamant that I didn’t want to charge for spa water.”

Agua fresca alternatives

At the original location of

...

FSD Resources