More responsibility weighing on directors

Operators report their job scope is increasing, though often not officially.

Whether through official promotions or unofficial changes, foodservice directors are taking on more responsibility, according to The Big Picture research. Most operators believe their job responsibilities have expanded outside of their traditional roles—even though the great majority of them do not manage multiple departments.

We asked operators to rate their level of agreement on a six-point scale, where six is “completely agree” and one is “do not agree at all,” for the following statement: “The scope of foodservice directors’ jobs has expanded in the last five years to include responsibilities outside traditional foodservice operations.” Seventy-three percent of operators strongly agree with this statement (rated six or five). Directors who are 60 or older (85%) are significantly more likely to strongly agree (rated six or five) when compared to younger operators (70%). Although operators say their roles are expanding, the vast majority (81%) report they are not responsible for any departments outside of foodservice.

That is not to say, however, that they aren’t assuming more responsibility, particularly in schools. Eighty-three percent of schools still manage only foodservice, but some say that their roles are being redefined in other ways.

“My responsibilities have increased in the area of training new staff and employee relations issues,” says Amy Harkey, director of Child Nutrition Operations for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, in North Carolina. “An enormous amount of time is spent with documentation, employee counseling and employee meetings.”

Paige Holland, school nutrition director for Habersham County Schools, in Georgia, agrees, adding that “most of the increase [in responsibility] is due to the increased [USDA meal] regulations and the resulting monitoring and training that accompanies increased regulation.”

Keith Demars, who recently was promoted to system director for Piedmont Healthcare, in Atlanta, says he believes many directors are being given new roles to justify their continued employment. “I think more directors are being asked to spread themselves thin because foodservice is not typically a moneymaker,” Demars says. “So the expenses associated with a talented director need to be spread over a larger area. I am seeing a lot of directors taking on the role of EVS (environmental services) director and redefining the title as director of hospitality services.”

Cheryl Shimmin, network director of nutrition services at Kettering Medical Center, in Ohio, says she feels that, for some foodservice directors, multi-department management is a reward. “I believe we are asked to wear more hats because we innately run our operations like a business,” Shimmin says. “Foodservice directors develop and implement strategic plans while monitoring the key data points—expense ratios, revenue generation, quality targets.”

On college campuses, directors aren’t often asked to assume jobs outside of foodservice. More often, they receive multi-department management roles by being promoted to director of auxiliary services—a position that oversees foodservice as well as departments like printing, the bookstore and the mailroom. 

Some—13%, according to The Big Picture—are seeing their departments revamped to include hospitality services, giving them a coordinator’s role in areas such as sustainability.

“It makes sense,” says Gary Coltek, director of Culinary & Hospitality Services at Kennesaw State University, in Georgia. “Sustainability, in particular, is a large part of our mission as a foodservice department, and we should own it.”

Most operators agree with Coltek. Seventy-six percent of operators agree with the following statement (rated six, five, four): “An institution’s sustainability/environmental efforts should be led by the foodservice department.” 

When it comes to other departments that operators manage outside of foodservice, hospitality services (11%) was most often cited, followed by environmental services (4%), housekeeping (3%), laundry (3%) and facilities (2%). One percent of respondents indicated they are responsible for housing, printing and/or transportation.  

8: The average number of years a foodservice director has been in his/her current position. Directors in B&I accounts were the most likely to have been in their current position for a longer time period, at 11 years. Those under 30 years old have been in their current position an average of three years, while those 60 or older average 12 years in their current position.

Defining a Career

Including their current position, foodservice directors have worked at an average of four non-commercial locations in their careers. Probably not surprising, those who have worked in non-commercial foodservice for more than 20 years have worked in an average of five non-commercial operations, while those with less than 20 years in this industry have worked in an average of two non-commercial operations. The average number of years a director has been employed in the non-commercial industry is 20. 

Throughout their foodservice career, a director is most likely to either currently work at or have worked at a nursing home/long-term care/senior living facility (51%). Commercial operations were the second most likely place a non-commercial operator has worked at during some point of his/her career. Operators currently working in B&I (77%), retirement homes/senior living (65%) and colleges (56%) were significantly more likely than other segments (42%) to have worked in a commercial operation. Operators who have spent less time in the non-commercial industry (less than 20 years) were significantly more likely to have worked in a commercial operation than those who have worked in non-commercial foodservice more than 20 years (57% versus 42%, respectively). Schools were the least likely of the main non-commercial segments to have crossover. Only 8% of operators who are not currently employed in a school have worked in a district.

Including current position, where foodservice operators have worked in their career:

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