Julie Hanrahan: Reaping Rewards

Of the contractor, she says: "They give you the tools but how successful you are is related to how much you put into it to inspire the staff. Early on, when Compass hired other managers to do this job, I saw there were many programs they weren't doing. I go all out to use the tools they provide to carry out the programs because I see how well they work."

The contractor's Slow Cuisine program, with its focus on utilizing locally produced product, dovetails neatly with Hanrahan's mindset. "In a sense, it's going back to the old ways, yet it's very new and a current focus for foodservice," she says. "There's Semkow Farm in Old Lyme (Conn.) where I've gone to purchase their cheese, and I'll get Russian rye bread (it's famous) and hard rolls from a bakery in Colchester delivered daily to the deli bar."

Hanrahan creates many of the specialty desserts herself, based on a talent she began to hone when she was barely 20 years old and worked with a skilled pastry chef in a French restaurant in Kingston, N.Y.

She's a star: Hanrahan has used the contracto's Be A Star innovation recognition program in various ways in her operation and credits it as the driver behind many of her programs and management techniques. (She was one of two Flik Independent Schools foodservice directors named a Be A Star winner last year.)

The Culinary Garden, for example, is her home-grown idea, prompted by a Be A Star goal to create a community project. It also fits neatly into the Slow Cuisine focus on promoting the use of locally grown produce.

"Last year, my staff and I, with help from the grounds crew, created a large garden,"she explains. "This year we made it smaller and closer to the kitchen and we hope to get the students involved in tending it next year. It's actually two boxes, one for tomatoes and one for fresh herbs, plus edible flowers, all of which we incorporate into the menu."

"Now, the Flik management, including the district manager and regional vice president, want all units to do my Culinary Garden."

The Be A Star program has also provided her with continuing education tools for herself and her staff. "I listen to my employees and that helps to create loyal, dedicated workers who respect me because I respect them, we're tight like a family. The more I reach out, the more everyone benefits. My job is to inspire them."

Turnover has been basically non-existent during the past four years at St. Thomas More, a goal Hanrahan and her headmaster were eager to achieve. "We have 13 employees and I try to make sure we're properly staffed so jobs can be performed effectively," she says. "We pay our staff well, and meals are part of their employment package, since there are several casinos nearby that are always looking for staff."

Low turnover certainly saves the expense of training new employees, but of greater interest to Hanrahan is that a proper level of staffing increases the likelihood that sanitation measures will be carried out to her high standards. "I've taken all the required (sanitation) courses, but that's just the core of me: organized and clean," she asserts. "We're serving food to people and I take that seriously. I insist upon having a liquid hand sanitizer unit at the door to the cafeteria and now all the kids use it."

Sanitation maven: Above and beyond state-mandated health inspections, the school contracts for a quarterly sanitation inspection. "Each time the inspector visits, he raves," she says. "I've instituted a 360-degree turnaround here, the first few months, all I did was clean."

Setting an example for her staff and customers includes practicing good nutrition herself and following a healthy lifestyle, not to mention teaching aerobics throughout the week, including a Sunday class at the school."Foodservice and aerobics are great for me," she comments. "I get to do what I love to do."


More From FoodService Director

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...

Ideas and Innovation
regions hospital exterior

One of our new concepts, YumMarket, is a play off our YumPower brand that we have out in the community. We use YumPower in K-12 schools, and there’s a kiosk in a nearby minor league ballpark. We feature only better-for-you choices, such as fresh-made pizzas, sandwiches and healthy grain salads. We want people to know we are taking care of people here the same way we are in the overall community.

Ideas and Innovation
herb garden wall

In high-volume operations, few look at herb gardens as the end-all-be-all budgeting solution. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a return on the investment. The value, operators say, is in the message herb gardens and herb walls send—that an operation uses ingredients that are fresh, sustainable and healthy. Here’s how the growing areas have paid off at three operations.

A cafeteria wall at Miles River Middle School in South Hamilton, Mass., houses three rows of hydroponic lettuce spearheaded by an interdisciplinary group of health, science, math, technology and foodservice employees...

FSD Resources