Jon Plodzik: Chasing the "wow"

Ralph Coughenour, director of culinary services, says Plodzik has been the motivator behind several changes to the menu, including the creation of an all-day breakfast concept, which helped increase participation.

“Jon is very much a visionary,” says Coughenour. “He sets the standards and allows us to execute them as we see fit. We have modified many of our concepts so that the food is customized for the students immediately. He has an ability to build a culture of excellence in both the culinary and service departments and he also shows compassion for our associates.”

Plodzik’s passion for his team is palpable. He is quick to credit them for any success the department has had.

“All I can do is spark the passion the staff has in them,” Plodzik says. “I’m not a foodie. If I were cooking, people would scream. They say ‘Jon paints with a big brush,’ but I don’t have the expertise to fill in the dots. My staff gives me a hard time because I was one of them, but I was fortunate enough to be chosen. But I value so much what they do. Students may not appreciate what this staff does for them right now. They may leave UNH without appreciating it. But if they think back to it along the road someday and they think, ‘wow, I had it good,’ then we’ve gotten the ‘wow.’ I’m going to get that ‘wow’ sooner or later.”

Not a foodie: Plodzik’s quest for the “wow” started when he used to sell soda at his brother’s baseball games.

“I was probably 13 or 14 and I would buy the soda and I sold it for a quarter a cup,” Plodzik says. “My bike had all these racks on it so I could carry the soda. That started me in the business. I always loved engaging and talking with people. I never was terribly shy.”

After his adventures selling soda, Plodzik didn’t work in foodservice again until he was a student at UNH, where he worked in dining to pay some of his bills. However, his stint in college dining didn’t convince him it was where he’d spend his career.

“I always thought of myself as being in public relations,” Plodzik says. “I majored in business administration with a minor in psychology. When I graduated I worked for a car rental company. I rented a car one day for a district manager for Marriott Management Services. He was so delighted in the way he and I engaged with each other that he told me I should come interview with Marriott. Marriott hired me to work in several healthcare accounts for them. David [May] had been at Marriott and when he left to be UNH’s director of dining, he said ‘I’m going to call you for a job someday.’ I never really thought he would, but that’s why I’m really indebted to him.”

At the end of the day, Plodzik’s ability to engage and interact with people has been his greatest asset.

“I love what I do,” Plodzik says. “I can’t imagine doing anything different. I love it because we have so much fun here. People come in here and see that we are approachable—we’re human. They know we’re trying to do the best we can. We’re not always perfect. That’s what it’s about—the relationship we have with the students. I want them to know every single person who works for us.”

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