Here's what the future holds for Geisinger Health, which was named FSD’s May Foodservice Operation of the Month, in the words of Senior Director of Foodservice Steve Cerullo.
Q: Some operators are eagerly awaiting a return to a pre-pandemic normal, but your conversations with your team have more of a reinvention message. Why?
I drive my team by telling them to think of this as a clean slate. Start totally fresh. If we were building an operation today, creating a brand-new system of cafes, how would we do that? So, to me, there’s no point in thinking about in terms of, how do we get back. The past norms are gone, and we’re looking ahead to the future.
Q: In that near-term future, what are your goals for the coming year?
We’ve created some major metrics I hold my team accountable for. Our No. 1 goal is making the healthy choice the easy choice. We want to be seen not only as a great quality place to eat but also a healthy facility—breaking that stigma that healthy means too expensive for the customer or too labor-intensive for us.
Our second focus is getting back to driving traffic through the cafeterias. We want to provide a safe environment, and there’s a wide range of how people have reacted to the pandemic in terms of their standards on that. We want people to know they can come back in and feel safe while getting a great meal.
Q: What makes your operation excel?
It’s not just my team but the one above us: the support we get from campus leaders. We’re blessed in that we do a good job at what we do, and they recognize that and allow us to be us. There’s open communication, which is really important when you span a footprint like that of Geisinger Health.
Different campus leaders think differently. For example, as soon as the governor said we could expand to 75% capacity in our dining rooms, some of our campus leaders were like, OK, let’s go 75, and others said, Let’s keep this spot at 50%. When it’s communicated clearly, you can have that conversation and make that plan, which makes all the difference.
Q: What has the pandemic taught you?
I would never say COVID was a good thing, of course, but it has taught us how to think. It taught us to be able to deal with challenges. I’m sure every hospital and operation on the planet has its “disaster plan”—we had disaster menus planning for, like, a two-day snowstorm—but I don’t think anyone predicted a year-long disaster.
Just like a snowstorm affects supply chain and staffers coming in, COVID did that too, but for a much longer time. No one planned for basics like gloves and ketchup being nearly impossible to get for a while. So it’s tested our plans and our confidence, but we have really learned how to think.Nominate an FSO of the Month