Here's what the future holds for the University of Georgia at Athens in the words of Executive Director of Dining Services Bryan Varin.
Q: What have you learned from working in foodservice during the pandemic?
More than ever, the importance of taking things one day at a time. That’s both a personal thing and a professional thing. We always know we’ve got to continue looking to the future, that you have to plan, that you have to be strategic. But honestly, in this business, you just don't know what's going to come your way—and if you’d told me on March 12, 2020, that the university would be transitioning to a remote learning environment, I probably would have told you that you're nuts.
But in a lot of ways, that’s the nature of our business: You never know what you're going to come into on any given day. So yes, be strategic and make your plans and communicate them, but you also need to understand that today is here. We’ve got to make sure that the plate of food that's being served right now is the best plate that we can possibly make. It’s really showed us the immediacy of the moment.
Q: Will you continue any of the operational changes you made because of COVID?
The [self-serve] markets have been a hit during COVID, and certainly continuing that is going to be key for us. Honestly, in all of our locations, we have converted back to pre-COVID models of service except for the unattended markets. Our students really enjoy them, being able to grab something and go quickly—and I don’t think that is just a pandemic trend.
Q: What makes your operation excel?
The commitment. In our folks providing for our campus, I think that there is a lot of buy-in. Our people are proud to be Georgia Bulldogs, proud to be here at work, and that shows in our customer service. It shows in the welcoming environment people come into when they dine with us. Our team members genuinely care about every single person who walks through the door, and that's what we strive for. We want to be a home away from home, and as long as we can continue to do that, I think we’re doing pretty well.
Q: What are your goals for the university’s foodservice in the coming year?
Continue to move forward, continue to think bigger, continue listening to our campus. Now that we are coming through COVID financially sound, we can start looking ahead for the business and for exciting projects. We had put some things on hold, and I think they don't have to be on hold anymore. I’m thrilled to be thinking about the new, exciting stuff that's coming so that we can continue to enhance the dining experience on our campus.
We’ve got some big things in the pipeline, but we can’t talk about them just yet. Maybe for the next article!Nominate an FSO of the Month