HARRY DOROFEE has improved dining services for Flik International Corp. at CLEARY GOTTLIEB STEEN & HAMILTON by:
• MANAGING an off-premise kitchen during a renovation of the main café, which provided food for a temporary café and catering, without a reduction in service
• INCREASING café participation by 11% and catering sales by 23% through renovations and the addition of well-known local brands
• MAKING the program more efficient by combining the catering and café menus into one
• CREATING an environment where associates are encouraged to see themselves as “owners” of their jobs
Harry Dorofee, Flik at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & HamiltonHarry Dorofee believes instilling a sense of ownership in his employees is the key to a successful operation. As food service director for Flik International Corp. at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, a New York law firm, Dorofee encourages his staff to work as if each station within the 23 pantries, conference catering, new barista bar and main café at the firm were their own business.
Adam Freed, Flik’s senior vice president of creative development, says it is Dorofee’s ability to collaborate and his creativity that have made him a success at the account, which has been managed by Flik for more than 20 years.
“Harry’s captivating personality mixed with knowledge is a gift for those he touches,” Freed says. “We, as a family, are thankful for Harry’s dedication in understanding the true essence of what is our common purpose—to help create a meaningful difference in people’s lives.”
Feeding on the fly: One way Dorofee made a difference to customers was diminishing the impact of a nine-month renovation of the firm’s kitchen/café space, which opened in August 2011. Dorofee says during construction it was a challenge to provide the same level of service while operating out of a remote kitchen.
“It was a big endeavor to do the amount of sales that we did during that period while keeping customer satisfaction as high as always,” Dorofee says. “It took a lot of planning and a ton of teamwork.”
To maintain service the staff was split in half, with one group running the temporary café, which was set up in a conference room, and one group preparing meals in a satellite kitchen 30 miles away on Long Island.
“Due to traffic concerns, we decided to make all the food at the satellite kitchen, chill it and then send it to the temporary café the night before, while adhering to the most stringent food and sanitation guidelines,” Dorofee says. “This approach allowed us to rethermalize the food just before service in order to maintain optimum quality.
Obviously, participation in the cafeteria decreased slightly, but catering sales increased 10% during construction. The key was that at no point during the renovation did we lose the sense of community the café brings to the business.”
The renovated café is a modern space on the 39th floor with lots of natural light and an impressive view of downtown New York City. Stations include a grill, which serves hand-cut steaks, market-fresh seafood and grilled vegetables; a pizza station with a brick oven where chefs make pizza dough from scratch, casseroles and pastas; a deli, which features a counter where Flik’s FIT—more healthful options—are positioned so they are the first items a guest sees when entering the café to help guide healthy eating choices; a salad bar that features local and seasonal produce; and an action station that offers a chef demonstration and a cook-to-order special of the day.
The café is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, closing at 8:30 p.m. Around the corner from the 270-seat dining area is a new barista bar, which was designed to take advantage of the building’s view of the Statue of Liberty.
“We have an [independently operated] Starbucks right in the lobby,” Dorofee says. “[To compete] the barista bar offers services on a different level. All of our teas are loose leaf and hand packed to order. We offer three different espresso blends. The bar also offers homemade gelato, where we can experiment and create fun flavors such as peanut butter and jelly and Mexican hot chocolate. We also instituted a Flik Happy Hour to drive traffic and participation during our slowest times, [during which] we offer $1 coffee, $1 iced coffee and $2 cappuccino drinks.”
One particular point of pride for Dorofee is the offering of New York City cult favorites in the barista bar and main café.
“We love to celebrate local items,” Dorofee says. “We bring in Billy’s Cupcakes from Chelsea. Every Tuesday we feature Doughnut Plant doughnuts at the coffee bar. Thursdays it is pies and cakes from Momofuku. We really like to bring a little of the NYC flavor inside.”
Seeking efficiencies: The renovation also brought Dorofee 50,000 square feet of conference space, including a second community buffet room.
“We have two general buffets outside rows of conference rooms, which we use to set up all food for meetings and events,” Dorofee says. “We’ll set up beverages and utensils in the actual conference room, but all the food is set up in the buffet area. The buffet allows for better control of cost and waste, allowing the firm to pass along savings to clients.”
Dorofee says the team wasn’t sure what impact the extra points of service in the café and extra conference space were going to have on sales and service.
“We could make an educated guess, but it was going to be different than it ever had been,” Dorofee says. “After we opened we worked with Cleary Gottlieb to find efficiencies while still providing great food, people and service.”
The team decided to combine catering and the café, which previously were run with different menu options.
“We get the efficiencies in catering of preparing a unified menu, and the cafeteria gets the benefit of purchasing a larger amount [of product] so we can showcase items we weren’t able to before,” Dorofee says. “Because we are just using one set menu we can utilize people to do other things rather than just tasks that would be involved in setting up two menus. This helps the chefs move beyond their function and interact with the customers more, creating a connection and ultimately loyalty.”
Business owners: Dorofee originally was drawn to foodservice because he liked being creative. He attended culinary school at Johnson & Wales, in Providence, R.I., and after graduation was hired by Flik as a chef. Working as a chef taught him the importance of being an “owner” of his station, a philosophy that has stuck with him.
“He is always open-minded to other people’s ideas and gives them the freedom to showcase who they are through their work and creativeness,” says Molly Cunningham, executive chef for Flik at Cleary Gottlieb. “With his motivation, encouragement and guidance we succeed in our daily tasks of business.”
Dorofee says thinking of all employees as business owners is key.
“If I work the deli, I’m the ‘business owner’ of the deli,” Dorofee says. “The other key to me is to make sure that everyone has the mentor/protégé relationship. Being able to pass along knowledge that I have learned from my mentors is important to me. I’ve been able to grow with the people around me, advancing all of our careers together.
Molly moved from our sous chef to our executive chef when I made the move to foodservice director. One of our other chefs replaced Molly as sous chef. These moves are key to keeping our family environment intact.”