Regina Toomey Bueno: Team Builder

Another team-building exercise was rewriting the mission statement. “I think it’s really important to state what you’re about, and maybe I don’t look at it every day, but the exercise of making this philosophy is what’s important,” she says. “People want to feel they are appreciated, that they know what’s going on and that they are included in decisions, so we really try to do that. And I think that’s part of our mission. The flip side is you have to hold people accountable. I think it’s incumbent on us to provide people with all the direction that we can.”

Angela Anderson, assistant director of patient services, was at NYU before Toomey Bueno’s arrival. She says that since then the staff morale has increased. “We are more compatible now,” Anderson says.

Chris Lord, director of operations, says Toomey Bueno’s humility has greatly aided in the team atmosphere. “Regina expects you to get results, but she doesn’t constantly interfere,” Lord says. “She has a tendency to humble herself. Any kudos or recognition she gets she puts it back on the team.”

The management team isn’t the only group that Toomey Bueno has focused on. Under her guidance, several mentoring and training programs have been implemented for people looking to gain on-the-job work experience. Several employees work in the department through an organization called Contemporary Guidance Services (CGS), which places people in locations to provide them with training. CGS pays the employees for their time working at the hospital.

Toomey Bueno recently signed on to a program through the city’s Department of Education that will place at-risk students in the department to enable them to gain work experience.

In addition, volunteer college students do all patient nutritional screening, and the department hosts several other students to help them gain work experience and training.

“Sometimes you get people who just need a chance to develop their skills. It’s a benefit to us, too. We’ve hired quite a few of them,” Toomey Bueno says.

Retail upgrades: Toomey Bueno is the first to admit that the cafeterias at the two hospitals are in need of renovation. “In New York City, space is the final frontier. When some space becomes available, the competition for it is fierce.” In addition to the space challenge, Toomey Bueno says plans for a new hospital wing, which will most likely house the foodservice department, are in the works. So Toomey Bueno knows spending the money that is needed to update the cafeterias is not a smart, or likely, move.

Instead, the department has worked within its parameters. “Our main cafeteria is very busy; we are doing close to $3 million in revenue a year, but it’s very tight and we have to get a lot of people through in a short time,” Toomey Bueno says. “So we try to really emphasize grab and go.” Since Toomey Bueno joined the hospital in September 2007, retail sales have increased 20%.

Toomey Bueno attributes that increase to the emphasis on grab and go and upgrades made to the menu. “We’ve tried to jazz things up,” she says. “I think our menu is a little more adventurous; maybe that’s because it’s New York. We have brown rice, pigeon peas and rice, tabbouleh, a hummus and pita platter and a portobello mushroom burger. We have a lot of interesting things, but we also have the basic roast chicken and meatloaf. The other thing that is significant here is that we have a pretty large Jewish population. We don’t have a kosher kitchen; we use pre-packaged items.”

Other upgrades to the retail operations include changing to Green Mountain Coffee, marketing the department’s in-house bakery, with a branded concept named Patisserie Pujol, after the department’s baker, and increasing theme meals and special events. One such event was a six-course gourmet lunch for Administrative Professionals’ Day. “The idea is you can take your administrative professional to lunch and have a nice French meal,” Toomey Bueno says. The lunch was held in the faculty dining room with wait service and cost $24.99. “We are doing it primarily in part to show what we can do and that we have a talented culinary staff. We’re not doing it to make a whole lot of money, but we are also offering that opportunity for people so that they don’t have to go out to a restaurant.

“The secret to this job is it’s a journey, not a destination,” Toomey Bueno says. “You’ve got to learn to enjoy the journey. You have to go in and work every day to make it better because you can get overwhelmed very easily.”

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
coffee shop trailor graphic

A familiar face is coming to the roads of Rutgers University this fall: the Starbucks mermaid. The New Brunswick, N.J.-based school is testing a Starbucks truck throughout the upcoming semester, NJ.com reports . The company began testing trucks on college campuses in 2014, and now has mobile locations at Arizona State University, James Madison University in Virginia, East Carolina University in North Carolina and Sacramento State in California.

The trucks will serve the full lineup of Starbucks beverages that’s available at the outlet’s brick-and-mortar location at Rutgers,...

Industry News & Opinion

A study from Virginia Tech has found a connection between school meal participation and obesity in students. From data that predates the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act , the findings raise questions over whether nutrition standards go far enough.

The research evaluated data from 1998 to 2007, comparing first through eighth grade students who partook in free and reduced-price lunch and those who qualified but opted out. Wen You, associate professor in the Department of Agriculture and Applied Economics at Virginia Tech, says she expected to validate theories that increased breakfast...

Industry News & Opinion

Buffalo Public Schools is turning to local chefs and a little competition to help create new menu items, the Buffalo News reports .

In October, local chefs will compete against each other and a team of seven to 10 students led by chef Bobby Anderson, a former contestant on “Hell’s Kitchen,” to create lunch recipes that comply with USDA nutritional requirements and use seasonal produce sourced locally.

“This Chef Challenge is another way to engage our youth in a fun, friendly competition with local area chefs who can help create appealing recipes that will be incorporated...

Industry News & Opinion

After being sued by the Services Employees International Union over its decision to change vendors from Sodexo to Morrison, the foodservice arm at Mayo Clinic continues to face backlash from staff.

Foodservice employees at the Rochester, Minn., hospital last week handed over a petition 1,200 signatures deep asking that they remain with their current employer, Fox 9 reports .

While a Mayo Clinic spokesperson said that staff will be given similar positions and pay rates under Morrison, SEIU Healthcare Minnesota—the union representing much of the hospital’s foodservice staff—...

FSD Resources