Glenn Davenport’s 33 Years at Morrison
Davenport will retire August 31st at the relatively young age of 52. Timing—not to mention hard work—has been central to his 33-year career at Morrison, and he has never lost sight of his down-home roots no matter how high-powered his business acumen and responsibilities have grown.
He joined Morrison’s parent company, Morrison’s Restaurants Inc., in 1973, and has held a variety of management positions throughout the organization. In 1982, he served as managing director of Saudi Arabia Morrison.
Fast track: Davenport returned to the U.S. with the title of U.S. regional vice president in 1986; he was later promoted to senior vice president of the Hospitality Group; and then became president of the Healthcare Division in 1994. He was named chief executive officer after Morrison Healthcare became a separate corporation in March, 1996, and remained in that position through the Compass Group acquisition of Morrison in 2001.
At that time, having won the IFMA Silver Plate 2000 award in healthcare—and having made a three-year commitment to Compass—Davenport began to think seriously about what he’d like to do with the rest of his life.
Hearing this leader of industry recalling his audacious entrance upon the Morrison scene provides a sense of how he’s come so far and where he might chose to direct his efforts in the future.
Taking aim: “When I was 20 years old, I was going to college, married and had a child on the way—I was poor, hungry and needed money,” he recalls. “There was a man at church who always wore a three-piece suit and drove a Cadillac. I asked around and learned that he was John Hill and he worked for Morrison Cafeterias. I couldn’t figure how he made a lot of money working in the cafeteria in town, but I thought I’d ask him for a job and perhaps become as successful as he evidently was.”
Warming to his story, Davenport continues. “One night he pulled up in the church parking lot and I went over to him and said, ‘Mr. Hill, you’ve known my family all my life. I’m looking for a job.’ He said, ‘It involves long hours, hard work, and I don’t think you can do it.’ During the week, the more I thought about what he’d said, the madder I got.
“The next weekend, I waited for him in the parking lot and, when he got out of his car I said, ‘If you can do it, I can do it!’ Mr. Hill laughed and said he was hoping I was going to say that, and I should be at his office downtown in the First National Bank building Monday morning. I was surprised his office wasn’t in the Morrison Cafeteria, but I soon found out he was president of the institutional division of Morrison and those were the folks I interviewed with.”
Davenport began as a management trainee in a Morrison Healthcare Division storeroom at a time when the company operated 50 cafeterias and about 50 institutional accounts. “The institutional division was the ‘stepchild’ since Morrison Cafeteria management thought that running foodservice in hospitals was a piece of cake,” he explains.
When Morrison bought Ruby Tuesday—a chain of about 12 or 14 locations—in 1982, the division slipped to third place in management’s estimation, behind Morrison Cafeterias and Ruby Tuesday, and the time seemed right for an infusion of new ideas in the Healthcare Division. Davenport, named president of the Morrison Healthcare Division in 1994, was full of plans and, two years later, boldly took Morrison Healthcare public.
“We had about $225 million in sales and about 3,000 employees—this year we have about 15,000,” Davenport says. “We were a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange for about five years prior to our acquisition by Compass in April 2001. When we went public, everything we did affected our stock price. Therefore we grew up faster and worked better.”
Today, the Senior Dining Division serves about 450 accounts with approximately $350 million in gross annual revenues, while Morrison Healthcare Division has about 500 locations and about $650 million in gross annual sales.
Retail mindset: When Davenport began with the company, hospital foodservice was a cost-plus business—the facility passed along expenses to the government or to insurance companies. With the advent of diagnostic related groups (DRGs) came a price freeze that impacted the way Davenport’s company needed to do business in order to continue to grow.
“Capitated [fixed] prices meant the priorities of our clients changed,” he explains. “Prior to DRGs, it was management fee, but today 80% to 90% of accounts are profit-and-loss; therefore we have to have a retail mindset. Today, you have to know what your costs are and be able to read a P&L statement.
“Plus, you must have a customer mindset,” he continues. “After all, we get hired to reduce the clients’ cost and to improve patient satisfaction.”
Changing of the guard: When Davenport retires this summer, Scott MacLellan, founder of Foodbuy (now a purchasing arm of Compass Group) will take over the helm. He will report to Rick Postiglione, ceo of contract foodservices at Compass. Brothers Michael and Kevin Svagdis will become president of Morrison Healthcare and Morrison Senior Dining, respectively.
Davenport, meanwhile, will continue to work on a talk radio show he helped launch in January. “I still want freedom over my schedule—that was my main reason for retirement,” he adds.”