At A Glance: Dick Cattani
Restaurant Associates Managed Services
•In foodservice for 34 years (with RA)
•Size of Business: 100+ accounts in 13 states
•Segmentation: 55% corporate dining and education, 45% receation and leasure
•Foodservice Sales: $275 million
•Manages 8,000 employees
It is easy to imagine officials of Restaurant Associates Managed
Services excitedly batting around new menu ideas during a brainstorming
session in a conference room loftily located in an office building
nestled in a culinary Mecca. After all, an employee of the midtown New
York-based company needn’t go far to find some serviceable menu ideas
for one of the contractor’s accounts, whether it be for a
business-and-industry cafeteria or a new performing arts center or a
Success, however, is not guaranteed. The
challenge is applying the latest foodservice trends—or perhaps even
homegrown innovations—to over 100 accounts, and then turning these
ideas into profit makers.
RA is in the midst of a growth spurt.
President Dick Cattani reports that over the next two years, the
company will roll out a tremendous number of projects, mostly in
cultural centers, performing arts center, museums, aquariums and zoos.
And eventually this growth will bring this segment of its business,
which generates about 45% of revenues, closer to the 50% mark.
the company’s mostly NYC-based B&I foodservice segment—the
remaining 55% of its current business—is also thriving. “Our bread and
butter will continue to be B&I” portends Cattani.
profits: The days of fully subsidized foodservice for company
employees, provided and billed as a benefit, may live on in the
memories of industry veterans. But foodservice managers and directors
newer to the business are likely to know the B&I market as a
competitive one, aimed at turning a profit as much as it is intended to
provide an employee benefit—and New York is likely to offer up as much
street side competition as any place. “It’s not a captive audience; you
really have to fill the seats every day,” he notes.
He says the
B&I foodservice provider’s objective, therefore, is now to move the
top line up—increasing sales—and use more self-service platforms as way
of reducing labor. “There’s no question that the trend has shifted from
subsidy fee accounts to profit-and-loss accounts, so we’ve had to be
much more creative in a couple of areas,” says Cattani.
stations, such as RA’s antipasti station or salad bar, cut labor costs
at the contractor’s accounts and offer foods that customers are
seeking. “Our thrust, and our differentiation, is bringing to our
clients and ourselves some significant sales, be it through
participation increases or increased check averages—not [achieved] by
price increases, but by them spending more,” he explains.
menu items and services have driven sales increases for RA. Ideas from
its retail side flow swiftly and freely to the non-commercial side, and
the contractor’s B&I accounts, Cattani says, are the happy
beneficiaries of a retail-mindset and the ability to translate street
concepts into profitable cafeteria or foodcourt stations in a
non-commercial setting. One example is the new cafe scheduled to open
this month at Alliance Capital, a B&I account, which will feature
an array of food concepts lifted and refit for workplace dining.
up: One station will be the “plancha grill,” basically a griddle being
used by many restaurant chefs to cook seafood these days. “It cooks and
sears fish at a high temperature sealing in all the flavors and juices
without burning it,” he says, adding that RA officials got the idea
after coming across the item in a seafood restaurant and plan to
incorporate it into new facilities going forward.
debuting at the new cafe will be a tapas bar; an extensive salad and
antipasti bar; a made-to-order tossed salad station; and an espresso
bar, which will be Compass’ Ritazza program.
There is even
more menu development and innovation going on the side of RA’s business
that focuses on cultural centers, museums and aquariums—yet Cattani
continues to assert that what works on this side of business is often
later applied to B&I. Projects include a cafe at New York’s Central
Park Zoo that features a menu peppered with sustainable, organic and
environmentally friendly items. Later this year RA opens a foodcourt,
along with an 800-seat catering facility flanked by two huge
fish-filled tanks, at the new Georgia Aquarium, opening in Atlanta.
in Atlanta, the Woodruff Arts Center will feature RA’s Table 1280
Restaurant and Tapas Lounge. The facility will be both an American
brasserie, says Cattani, and a contemporary tapas lounge menuing small
plates, including the scallop, papaya and chile ceviche; and aged
manchego cheese with quince paste.
Flavor explosion: Quince
paste and ceviche may not be immediately recognizable to every, or even
most, Americans, yet, but Cattani says customers are demanding more
from foodservice providers these days. “What we are starting to see,
whether it be at a cultural center or in corporate dining, is that the
foods are becoming more ethnic, bolder, more flavorful; that’s the
trend,” he says. Also making his list of hot menu selections are items
that boast healthful properties, organic foods, more seafood and
sandwiches, particularly grilled sandwiches featuring ethnically
inspired ingredients, such as the Cuban or the panini.
is highly confident in the ability of RA’s team of chefs to craft these
concepts into workable programs in all of its venues. “We have
tremendously talented culinarians and we place great stock in our
chefs,” he asserts. “We have a terrific cadre of supervising chefs who
can pull best practices from one unit to the other, and continually
introduce new programs to get our chefs excited and to pay attention to
what’s going on in the world. Our formula has worked very well for us.”