Patti Malloy: Banking on It

The traits that make Pattie Malloy a successful operator are the very ones that make it difficult to find out from her just what it is that she does so well, since she never blows her own horn.

Malloy is general manager for Parkhurst Dining Services at PNC Bank's headquarters in Pittsburgh. She's a communications specialist by education, "people person" by nature and a lover of food, all rolled into one. And if helping to win new accounts while generating interest in the cafe where she's based and in three other PNC sites she helps oversee, and keeping guests in all locations coming back for more, are all part of the game, then she's the consummate team player.

She joined the contractor five years ago following a 21-year stint with Select Restaurants (formerly Stouffer's), where she began her foodservice career during her freshman year of college. "I studied communications management but I always had a passion for food and guest services," Malloy says.

Initially, she served as Parkhurst's director of dining services at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh before her move to the PNC Firstside account three years ago. Then, last August, Parkhurst was awarded PNC headquarters plus its loan center, and Malloy became general manager of the headquarters account.

PNC Firstside, PNC Loan Center and PNC Cafe 36, all similar cafeteria operations, are within walking distance of headquarters and have separate directors who report to Malloy. Her team includes chef Dave DeCollo, who has been with Parkhurst for about 10 years, and Bryan Marince, vice president of the western region.

"I help with marketing, budgeting and general oversight to ensure we're exceeding our guests' expectations," she explains. "I have daily phone conversations with the directors and occasionally stop by, sometimes unannounced, to make sure they're maintaining our standards."

Building a team: When Malloy arrived at the PNC Firstside account in 2003, she had no choice but to take a hard line, not her usual tactic, and make drastic yet necessary changes. Finding a well-entrenched staff that was "basically there for a paycheck," she let most everyone go, and then began to build a staff from scratch, hiring individuals who had a customer focus.

"That really turned the operation around, or so I heard," Malloy recalls. "At a management meeting later on, I was told that (turnaround) was instrumental in (Parkhurst's) being awarded these other PNC locations. I'm still on a first-name basis with hundreds of guests and I bent over backwards giving them what they wanted. I'm always out there with my guests."

By the end of this month, Malloy will begin to make quarterly progress comparisons as the first full year at the headquarters location is completed. At this point, she and her staff of 17, counting the chef and herself, serve an average of 600 to 750 daily lunchtime guests; the check average is about $2.20 for breakfast and $4.55 at lunch. Total sales for the year at the headquarters cafe are just over $1.4 million, with catering contributing about 25% of the total.

Diffusing P&L angst: Fortunately, Malloy inherited a "wonderful staff" at the headquarters account and reports very low turnover. The major challenge was to win over the minds and hearts of guests who were used to paying lower, subsidized prices.

"One of the ways we did that was by marketing our FarmSource program," she points out. "Depending upon the time of year, we menu a lot of vegetables and fruits that are locally grown, as well as hormone-free milk, locally made cheese and honey from local bees. The honey is used as a menu ingredient and jars of it are available for purchase."

In keeping with the FarmSource theme and her own personal passion for gardening and cooking, Malloy and Chef Dave recently marketed a Fresh Herb Week. Pots of locally grown basil, thyme, oregano and sage were displayed along with typed descriptions of the uses of each. These herbs were then featured in recipes throughout the week with appropriate signage indicating their inclusion.

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