Tony Almedia: In Touch at RWJ

Competing with the street: “Many healthcare operations give their food away, but our price structure is based on the competition outside,” Almeida explains. “If paninis are $5.50 outside, we charge our staff $3.95, $4.95 for visitors—40% higher than the staff price. Now, the dining room food cost average is 35% to 40%, down from 45% to 50% a while ago. Every January, we review each menu item and adjust our prices.” He’s aiming to increase daily sales by 10% to $13,000 by the end of the year.

 October 14, 2003—the day room service was implemented facility-wide—is a date etched in Almeida’s memory. To develop the program from the outset, Sodexho was hired as consultant. “They’ll tell you it’s a hard transition for employees since you’re turning foodservice upside down,” Almeida says. “They warned us that some employees wouldn’t make the transition since you’re turning [many of] them into short order cooks. But they all adapted and we didn’t lose any employees.”

Room service is available from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week. About 1,350 trays are delivered each day to all 567 patients in 49 different locations within the seven-building complex. “Prior to [the implementation of] room service, we were in the 50th percentile in Press Ganey,” he says. “Now we’re in the 98th percentile regarding ‘quality of food’ and we’re in the 96th percentile in ‘overall meals.’”

Satisfaction guaranteed: From day one of the room service planning process, Almeida and his management team kept the foodservice staff involved and informed. Once a week a rotation of four staff members visited a smaller hospital nearby doing room service. “When they came back, they said, ‘Yes, we could do that here,’” Almeida explains.

“Overall, there’s been a 3% to 5% decrease in food cost, but there’s been a 15% to 20% increase in labor costs since we had to add 20 FTEs. The whole hospital’s [Press Ganey] score is now in the 96th percentile. We’re proud [of that increase] since we were the first ‘patient satisfaction initiative’ undertaken in the hospital to go live.”

Catering special events provides ongoing opportunities for Almeida, who prides himself and his catering chef and staff of three in being unique and in never doing the same thing twice, to raise the bar for each event. Special events are run as revenue-generators with two-tier pricing—one for the internal customer and the other for the outside customer such as the Chamber of Commerce or the Knights of Columbus.

All events are catered on campus and the Arline and Henry Schwartzman Courtyard—an atrium that seats 750 people for a full sit-down dinner—is “ideal,” he says. “We do a major event about every other month and our employees really get involved—and we get to shine.”

Expensive but worth it: Menus are custom-designed around the function in consultation with each customer, but Almeida makes sure they understand his motto: “We’re good, but we’re not cheap.” Overall, he aims to turn at least a 25% profit per event.

The creation of theme days is not part of the special events staff responsibility, but is willingly handled by the dining room and back-of-the-house employees. Special themes, such as Spanish, Hawaiian or Caribbean Day, feature recipes and costumes provided by the staff—and a live band is frequently hired. Often the event—typically there’s one every four months—becomes a point of pride and good-
natured competition to see whose ethnic theme day generates more revenue for the department.

Competitive edge: “For our Spanish Day, two employees from Puerto Rico came in to prepare special desserts—one at 11 p.m. the night before, the other at 3 a.m. to dish them out and add the garnish,” Almeida notes. “We send thank you letters after each event to those who have made special contributions plus a copy to the hospital’s vice president of operations. We know customer satisfaction increases, our foodservice employees’ satisfaction increases and we see a 15% to 20% sales increase for each major theme day.”

In the months to come, Almeida, an avid golfer with a 15 handicap, will be taking a swing for his department to achieve a national Press Ganey ranking in the 99th percentile. “To do that is a lot of work,” he asserts, “but we know we’re only as good as our last meal. We also know that our ceo’s philosophy is: ‘At Robert Wood Johnson, failure is not an option.’”

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

In a bid to beef up its presence in sports arenas and a variety of other large venues, Sodexo will acquire foodservice vendor Centerplate for $675 million.

Sodexo says the deal, which is expected to be finalized by the end of this year, will more than double its global footprint.

Centerplate, which serves as the foodservice operator for a number for stadiums, convention halls and other event spaces, brought in revenues of $998 million for the year ending June 2017, according to Sodexo. Centerplate was purchased five years ago by Olympus Partners, a private-equity company...

Menu Development
eggs

Loyola University Maryland took a new approach to all-day breakfast with an egg-focused concept.

Breakfast options were top of mind for students when asked what they would like to see on the menu at the university’s revamped Boulder Garden Cafe. Instead of creating an all-day breakfast station, however, the Baltimore-based dining team went beyond traditional options and created a concept that services all mealparts with eggs.

“It can be somewhat mundane,” says Executive Chef Don Crowther on why the team strayed away from the trendy all-day breakfast. At the eatery’s Sunny...

Industry News & Opinion

The University of Kansas has added a retail pass that allows students to purchase one to-go combo meal per day at cafes and markets on campus, the University Daily Kansan reports.

The pass is available on two different meal plans and is geared toward on-the-go students who don’t have the time to sit down and eat at a residence hall.

“It has increased the participation rate,” Jamie Reed, a service assistant for the school’s dining services, told the University Daily Kansan.

Over 1,800 students have used the pass since its debut at the beginning of the semester....

Industry News & Opinion

The University of Minnesota dining team has created a vegan student group in an effort to improve the school’s vegan offerings, Minnesota Daily reports.

The group was created by the school’s foodservice vendor, Aramark, and its campus sustainability coordinator, who is vegan, after receiving numerous complaints from students about the lack of vegan options on campus.

The group will this week host its first meeting, during which members will be able to share feedback and provide solutions to help enhance the school’s vegan offerings. Members will also keep a photo journal...

FSD Resources