At a Glance: Laura Lozano
Facilities Manager Dell Global Dining, Round Rock, Texas
Grew up in San Antonio
Bachelor’s degree in food science and technology with a specialty in nutrition, Texas A&M University
Married to Robert DeSimone; four children, Rachel, 23, Katie, 22 (step-daughter),
Samantha, 20, Alyssa, 20 (step-daughter)
Enjoys reading, gardening, mosaics, listening to live music, cooking and baking
Laura Lozano, facilities manager for Dell Global Dining, in Round Rock, Texas, knows the importance of working with others. In her role at Dell, Lozano manages 24 locations in several countries, forging partnerships wherever her job takes her. Making these connections is one of the reasons Lozano has been successful in her 26 years in foodservice.
“I got into foodservice because of my brothers. They both went to Texas A&M University. My middle brother majored in animal science, but he took some food cookery and food science classes and he’d come home and talk about how interesting they were. I thought they sounded pretty cool because I loved science.
Growing up in San Antonio, food was a big part of our lives. My mother was a fantastic cook, and I remember when my parents would take weekend trips to Mexico or to a border town, it was a real treat when they would bring back Mexican candies and different chiles to cook with. We were always on the hunt for authentic Tex-Mex or Mexican food.
My brother was a big influence on me because after he graduated college and got out of the Navy, he started working for a restaurant company and was really excited about it. He introduced me to a small restaurant firm in San Antonio called 1776, Inc. I started out in its management training program. It was a really high-quality small team—probably about six to eight restaurants and they made everything from scratch. I ran its in-house bakery and I just loved it. It was like I was running my own business within a business.
After the bakery, I moved to a higher-end restaurant and that was a lot of fun, but being 23 years old and working every weekend and holiday wasn’t a good fit for me. One day I got a phone call from a recruiter that said Richard Ysmael and the team from Food Works, the in-house dining operation at Motorola, were going to be in town and they asked if I would I like to talk to them. They came into the restaurant and interviewed me and quizzed me pretty well about foodservice, and next thing I knew I had a job in Austin at Food Works, where I ended up working for 18 years.
Food Works was an incredible place to work. The people that I worked with, Richard Ysmael, Anita Brown and Gary Gunderson, were absolutely the best. We had such a cohesive family and we were really ahead of our time as far as the B&I foodservice industry was concerned. Because we worked for Motorola, we had all the advantages of working for a really great corporation. Consequently, I was able to take extended training at Johnson & Wales and the CIA in Hyde Park and Napa Valley. We were treated very well and we really operated on the cutting edge. When Food Works was sold to Compass, I worked at a really large account Compass account where it was really trial by fire. I learned a ton about managing large accounts and that stint with Compass opened my eyes and expanded my horizons to different businesses.
Since coming to Dell almost four years ago, one of the things I’m most proud of is that we have been able to introduce wellness initiatives where it has never been a priority. We created scorecards that measure each of our vendors. Within the scorecards, there are wellness goals that the vendors need to attain. For example, in the United States we are looking to increase participation with our healthy options, trying to make them at least 25% to 30% of sales. In other countries, having healthy options such as lower calorie items isn’t a huge priority. However, what we’ve done is make sure we always have fresh fruits and vegetables available, not just frozen. We make sure not to put butter or margarine on the vegetables that are offered. We make sure that we’re using the best quality products available because in many of our foreign facilities, we just don’t have the health issues the same way we do in the United States. The most important thing about the job is to know that what fits in one country, even just one operation, doesn’t necessarily fit elsewhere. We take each location’s key performance indicators and analyze them to figure out what is the best fit for this country, this vendor, this demographic. We found that in some cases some vendors’ data isn’t always the greatest indicator of success. However, if the food is high quality, then we’re doing a great job. An operation’s success isn’t black and white.
I work very closely with our on-site chefs and regional chefs to measure our sales. Our vendors track everything such as how many refills we have in a quarter because that means there are not plastic cups going into a landfill—during some quarters that can be up to 30,000 refills. We also track participation with our wellness entrées—looking at, ‘are they selling?’ Over time we noticed if they’re not selling then we need to take a look at the menus. At the end of the day people say they want to eat healthy, but they’re not going to choose a healthy option just because it’s labeled healthy; they’re going to choose the item if it looks and tastes good. Another thing we’ve done is replaced the full-fat mayo and salad dressings with low-fat substitutions. We’ve done that all over the world.
I learned early on that if you look at what the cost of a subsidy or meal voucher is on a spreadsheet, you’re not getting an accurate picture of why foodservice is the way it is. What I’ve learned is that in other countries, food and the service around food—the communal nature of eating in a café—is so much more important than what it is in the United States. We’ve become so much of a grab-and-go, drive through society. I have been very fortunate in my tenure with Dell to travel to many of our global dining sites, so I’ve been able to gain a better, deeper understanding of the communal nature of food in these other places. It’s something I try to bring back in my own life. Good-quality food and dining together was a given from my upbringing and how I raise my family.
Juggling all these different accounts in different time zones means I participate in a lot of conference calls. I really make an effort to develop relationships with our global facility managers and our procurement teams because at the end of the day I am more of a consultant. I work for them and I am there if they need me. I hope I can take a little bit of the burden off them. At the end of the day my job is to raise the quality of the foodservice without raising the cost of doing business.
Dell has set a goal to be the greenest technology company in the world. Foodservice is a part of that. In the United States we have switched to 90% compostable paper goods. Our next step is to begin the composting process. We do a great job with this in many of our foreign locations—for example, we compost everything in our Ireland operations. The vendor in France actually separates food waste and composts at a centralized location. Sometimes buying post consumer fiber-type products are more expensive, but our vendors have been wonderful and they know it’s the right thing to do. The vendors know that supporting local communities is important to our sustainability goals and us. We’ve expanded our buying local program even more with our produce company in the United States. They are focusing on local produce on a monthly basis. It’s even easier to buy locally in the other countries than it is in the United States. Other countries don’t have the distribution system that the United States does.
Success with these initiatives depends on working really closely with our vendors. A key part of that is making sure that we survey our customer base annually. When we conduct that survey we are really asking what the customers are concerned about and listening to them. We have a program we instituted called ‘We Hear You.’ So as a result of questions and concerns by customers we have simplified pricing and created a lot more value options, and as a result our participation rate and our customer satisfaction rate in the United States has gone up. We’ve taken this model all over the world. So each time one of the initiatives from the survey is implemented, we label it as a ‘We Hear You’ item so the customers know that these changes are because of their feedback.
Another area I’ve done a lot of work with is our safety and sanitation training. It got started because we realized that as we change vendors and vendor employees, we sometimes lose continuity with safety and sanitation. So we took the responsibility for maintaining continuity upon ourselves. We developed an online program for safety and sanitation training that we conduct quarterly. The initial training started as a compilation using the World Health Organization’s training. Some of our managers took the training and converted it to local languages, and then they delivered the training to the foreign vendors because they saw the need.
I’ve been very involved with SFM from early in my career. It was actually through a couple of SFM connections that I heard about the job at Dell. I felt like Dell was a great opportunity and would give me the chance to learn more and take on a global role. I first got involved with SFM because of Richard Ysmael. He really encouraged and supported the organization. He knew it was something that young managers should be involved with so we could meet other people who do what we do outside of our company. I’ve kept up with it because I think SFM just attracts quality people and I cherish the lasting friendships within the organization.
I was also one of the founders of SFM’s Women’s Council. If you look at the foodservice industry, in general, then B&I in the entry level, it’s 50/50 male to female. What we found is as the level of jobs progressed or as people were promoted, the ratio would change. So what we—myself and others including Debi Benedetti, Sally Minier and Amy Greenberg—wanted to do was make sure that we could champion younger women and bring them along in the organization. I think we’ve been successful in getting women into upper-management positions within the industry. We’ve changed the face of the board of SFM and the presidency and that gives women more exposure in their day-to-day jobs.
Richard Ysmael was one of my mentors. Above all he taught all of us that worked with him that working as a team was the most important thing to operational success. He showed us how to handle adversity with grace and to always remain calm in tough situations. Other mentors include my mom who taught me never to compromise—it's important to take the time to do whatever you are doing and do it well. My dad taught me an appreciation for good food. Debi Benedetti is another mentor. She taught me to expect the best from your team members and if you do, you'll get the best results. She also taught me the importance of loyalty and mentoring young women. We can all name someone who extended a hand to help us up. She also taught me not to be so hard on myself or to take myself too seriously. My daughters have also been key to my career. They are exceptional young women and their focus and behavior through some difficult times has enabled me to grow, travel and work hard, without having to worry about them (too much) or their values and goals—they have never wavered.
This is a tough business, and we often have to do more with less. It's important not to lose focus. I think I’ve used that ability to encourage our vendors to focus on the same things that are important to us: raising the bar on food, service and sanitation and therefore raising revenues. I feel my management philosophy is pretty straightforward. Have a passion for what you do. If you have a passion to serve food and truly believe in what you do on a daily basis, you can be confident that what you do positively impacts someone’s life down the road. If you can do that, it all works out.”