Steve Mangan: Sharpening the culinary focus

Steve Mangan has enhanced the foodservice department at Northwestern University by incorporating a global influence to menus by interacting with students and faculty.

At a Glance

  • 3,835 students on a meal plan
  • More than 26,500 meals served per day
  • 410 employees
  • 6 participants in the Manager-In-Training Program

Accomplishments

Steve Mangan has enhanced the foodservice department at Northwestern University by:

  • Aligning the strategy of the dining services program with that of the nationally ranked university through menu development and community outreach
  • Applying a culinary focus to remap the dining services program by establishing chef managers as department leaders
  • Incorporating a global influence to menus by interacting with students and faculty
  • Developing staff through culinary training and certification for advancement of their careers and betterment of the department

Aworld-class university deserves a world-class dining program. That’s the job for which Steve Mangan was hired. In his nearly four years at the helm at Northwestern University, in Evanston, Ill., Mangan, general manager for Sodexo, has led the dining services team in redeveloping the program, from the food to the opportunities provided beyond the plate.

For Mangan, to be a part of this nationally recognized institution (Northwestern is No. 12 in US News & World Report’s National University Rankings), it was essential that the dining program operate with the same standards of quality and align with the university’s mission and values. He has achieved that by filtering department activity through a culinary lens.

“Chefs innovate change, they want new things and they want to do different things all the time,” he explains. “Northwestern University has a global reach, we’ve got people from all over the world here. Our cooks are from all over as well, so we can match this interest in global experiences with our team and integrate it very easily.”

Julie Payne-Kirchmeier, assistant vice president of student auxiliary services, praises Mangan’s approach. “Steve has an energy level that I think is infectious. Bringing his chef’s perspective along with his manager’s perspective I think has allowed him to … align the mission and the goals and the strategy of Sodexo with that of Northwestern. All [of the program elements are] coming full circle, so it’s great that they’re a fully integrated partner, not just someone we hired to run the food program.”

Mangan credits obtaining student feedback as another element of the department’s success. “We have to engage with our customers on a regular basis, whether it’s a one-on-one interaction in a dining hall or in the line at Starbucks, to having food committees in each of the [residence] halls that the chefs run, [to] our dietitian interacting with students all the time [so that] we have a good understanding of special needs.”

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
rolling silverware

Ensuring that employees regularly complete the busywork missing from their daily checklist can be a challenge, but these tasks often help an operation run efficiently with fewer unexpected costs. At Methodist University Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., Regional Executive Chef Dustin Cochran has found a solution to ensure his walk-in coolers always have a clean vent. Cochran starts with a thorough cleaning of the vent, then slips a hairnet over it to catch the dust. Instead of getting employees to deep clean the vents, they need only replace the hairnet.

Ideas and Innovation
chicken and waffles

Our elementary menu is currently riding the breakfast-anytime advertising trend by offering Breakfast for Lunch every Tuesday. It ranks as our highest participation, and it was a great way for us to introduce chicken and waffles inspired by an IHOP dish.

Ideas and Innovation
dress code geeks

Team uniforms are a way we encourage fun. I tell the mangers that every person on your team needs to look like a member of your team, but they can decide together what they want to wear. When the students see a cafeteria person that is matching and having fun with their outfits, they relate to those people better. We don’t want them to look stiff and stuffy.

Menu Development
meatloaf slices plate

“This is the best meatloaf I’ve ever had,” a diner at Alcatel-Lucent telecommunications in Naperville, Ill., once told chef Iraj Fernando. The dish was rooted in a tried-and-true source—the “Betty Crocker Cookbook.”

“I just seasoned the breadcrumbs differently, used fresh parsley and beat the eggs to make them frothier,” says Fernando, executive chef and manager for Southern Foodservice Management.

Consumer interest is up for classic and comforting meat dishes like meatballs (16%), beef pot pie (26%) and meatloaf (12%) for dinner now compared to two years ago, shows...

FSD Resources