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."


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