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.”

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