Scott Shuttleworth has accomplished a lot in a short period of time. In his two years as director of Trojan Hospitality at 33,000-student University of Southern California in Los Angeles, he has opened nine venues, with plans for several more, and has completely changed the culture of what foodservice means to the university by bringing a more commercial mindset to his department. It is expected that his new operations will increase revenue by $4 million annually. He’s been so successful that the university named him Administrator of the Year in April, an honor Shuttleworth says he is very proud of. He feels that the award shows that his department has moved the agenda forward in a very tangible way for the students of USC.
“In the private sector, you have to earn your guests,” Shuttleworth says. “I think the goal when I arrived was to impart into our organizational culture that we want to be designing and operating venues that are competitive with the private sector. I don’t believe in the philosophy of a captive audience. I believe that we have guests at the university who have choices. We need to design venues that are destinations, that are draws, that have a social dynamic, and that have a diversity of concepts, cuisines and brands that make USC a great dining option.”
And Shuttleworth has done just that with his “Restaurant Row” project. Shuttleworth has developed an area adjacent to campus and opened three full-service restaurants to cater to USC and downtown residents.
“Our goal with Restaurant Row was to add a sense of connectivity to the area and the campus,” Shuttleworth says. “Our Restaurant Row is bookended by the Radisson Hotel, which the university owns, and our new basketball arena, the Galen Center. There was an opportunity to completely reinvent three different restaurants and create a sense of contemporary style. We tend to look at everything we’re doing at USC as contributing to downtown L.A. We want to have diversity in the type of operations, just as you would in any neighborhood. We need all of these levels from grab and go to retail to cafés to restaurants to lounges. We want to make sure we have all of the above so that this district of downtown, which USC is a part of, feels just as engaged and inspired with its dining locations as it would in any other place you would live.”
The Restaurant Row restaurants are McKay’s, which features upscale American cuisine in a casual yet refined atmosphere; Rosso’s, which features New York-style pizzas, pastas and shuffleboard; and The Lab, a gastropub that features sandwiches, flatbreads, pastas, salads and beer by the beaker.
“I have only been at USC since September 2008, and together Scott and I opened McKay’s, Rosso’s and The Lab,” says Peter Kolla, associate director of operations for USC Hospitality. “Scott is very involved in every aspect of the business and truly has his finger on the pulse of all venues and events. One thing that Scott says, which will always resonate with me, is ‘earn our reputation today’ and ‘never rest on what you accomplished yesterday.’”
Food in his blood: Shuttleworth grew up in San Diego in a family of restaurant owners. His family owned three restaurants, and it was there that he first tried his hand at foodservice, beginning as a dishwasher. He graduated from USC with a B.S. in business administration, always thinking that he’d end up working in foodservice in some capacity.
“I think certain people just have a passion for this industry,” Shuttleworth says. “You have to genuinely like people and understand the hours.”
Prior to USC, Shuttleworth worked in restaurants in several capacities, most recently as director of restaurant operations for SBE Restaurant Group, where he was involved with the openings of L.A. hotspots Katsuya and The Abbey. Making the switch to university foodservice from these high-end restaurants came about in what Shuttleworth calls an unintentional way.
“I ended up having some mutual friends with the senior vice president at the university,” Shuttleworth says. “He described some of the changes that USC was going to go through, which included building a new campus center. That was very intriguing to me since USC is my alma mater. They do these buildings once every century, so to have the opportunity to be involved with establishing a new era for hospitality seemed really interesting to me.”
Big changes on campus: The new 180,000-square-foot Ronald Tutor Campus Center, is slated to open in 2010, but to get the campus through the transition period, Shuttleworth had to use some unconventional methods to keep serving his customers.
“When I first arrived, I was put on the committee to work on the new campus center,” Shuttleworth says. “I determined that we needed to find an acceptable alternative for the two-year time frame of construction. Two years could be half a student’s time here, so it was important to me that we have conceptual integrity and that we build it to the level of innovativeness and uniqueness that would make people enjoy the venue.”
So Shuttleworth found a parking lot that was one block removed from where the former commons was located and built an alternative dining location. The parking lot was selected because no other location on campus had the capacity the facility needed. Shuttleworth put together a group of architects and designers and custom created the 20,000-square-foot facility, known as The Lot. In what looks like a giant tent, The Lot houses 17 modular kitchens, custom created to fit concepts such as Wolfgang Puck Express, Red Mango, Baja Fresh and USC’s own Traditions. Shuttleworth says The Lot has overwhelmed everyone with the response it’s gotten, and it now serves about 7,000 meals per day.
Meanwhile, Shuttleworth is deep in the planning, designing and execution of plans for the new campus center.
“I think we’re designing a great building that has a lot of diverse uses and will foster a sense of community,” Shuttleworth says. “From a great dining pavilion with five concepts to choose from to a market that has three additional food platforms, we’re going to have a combination of self-created concepts and national brands. It will also have a 250-seat full-service restaurant that will feature American cuisine such as steaks, seafood, salads and pastas. We’ll also have a brand new Traditions, which has historically been our campus pub.”
Farmer friendly: Another effort to create a sense of community came in the form of a campus farmers’ market that Shuttleworth started in February 2008. Held once a month, the Trojan Fresh Market offers USC’s students a chance to buy fresh produce, baked goods, trail mix, flowers and more. Hospitality buys the products from local farms and vendors and sets up the stands on the main quad. Students can pay with dining cards or cash. Hospitality uses any leftover food that is not purchased.
“I feel farmers’ markets are very popular for a lot of reasons,” Shuttleworth says. “One is markets promote great healthy and organic dining options. The other is that markets provide a wonderful sense of community and social dynamics. I thought it bridged a lot of our goals, such as providing new avenues for healthy, sustainable organic food and providing a forum to bring the USC community together.”
Other “green” efforts Shuttleworth’s team has implemented include switching to biodegradable disposables and implementing trayless dining. Shuttleworth estimates that switching to trayless will eliminate 1.2 million trays, 400,000 wash cycles and 100 gallons of soap and water each year and significantly reduce food waste.
Overal Shuttleworth is pleased with the progress so far.
“We want to make sure that any of our guests or students don’t feel the need to go downtown,” Shuttleworth says. “We want to make sure we’re delivering the best service, design and cuisines so we’re competitive with the best brands in the private sector. Why can’t you do that in a university environment? We should be one of the best hospitality companies in Los Angeles. When you set that mindset with your team members—that it is about guest service, cleanliness, standards, satisfaction and earning repeat business—you’re truly setting up a business model for sustained greatness.”