Meet 2015 Silver Plate winner Edward Sirhal

edward sirhal

Over the past 23 years, Edward Sirhal has aimed to help the foodservice management company where he began his career, elevate the perception of corporate dining, one client at a time. Early on, Restaurant Associates hitched its wagon to those business-and-industry clients that thought of the food offerings in their buildings not just as a necessity, but as an employee benefit, he says, and a potential draw. “We targeted companies that said, ‘We want to be different.’ We want to offer great food in a great environment,’” says Sirhal, who now serves as president of Restaurant Associates.

With Sirhal’s help, what started with 15 clients in New York City has grown to 160 clients nationwide. Today, the roster reads like a diverse Who’s Who of businesses and organizations, from Conde Nast to the U.S. Senate to the Georgia Aquarium—many widely celebrated outside the industry for having foodservice operations that rival the best restaurant operations.

It’s that competition that fuels Sirhal’s passion and drive to “beat the street,” as he says. “I was the youngest of four boys. That has driven me my entire life and now in my career,” he says. “I love to compete. I’m always trying to figure out the winning formula.” A few of the ways he’s winning:

1. Inspiring innovation

Inspired, Sirhal says, by the live events Apple hosts to roll out its new iPhone and other products, he launched Restaurant Associates’ Innovation Summit in 2013. Sirhal and team rents out a large venue in New York City and sets up mini “pop-up restaurants” and equipment showcases. Then he invites clients, foodservice managers and chefs to sample menu items, learn about the latest food and equipment trends and see firsthand what they might like to implement at their own locations. Last year, 122 out of 160 clients attended the event. “Clients are coming from all over the country to see what is coming in,” he says. “They’re interested in what we’re bringing to the table.”

2. Making wellness personal

“Health and wellness is something near and dear to my heart,” says Sirhal. To deliver on that commitment, he created a corporate director of wellness position within Restaurant Associates, which he describes as “a top-level chef who understands that we will never be able to move the needle in food without the food being fresh and tasting very good.” That director, Billy Strynkowski, a former executive chef for Cooking Light magazine, is behind the year-old initiative to roll out consumer-friendly dishes, branded as “Billy’s Picks,” systemwide. “Phase two is going to teach our customers [via live cooking demos] how to take what we’re doing home to their families,” Sirhal says.

3. One-of-a-kind partnerships

In 2014, Sirhal secured a deal with Culinary Institute of America to administer the foodservice program at its new student center, opening in July. Traditionally, CIA’s students eat what they prepare in the classroom |he says, and this partnership marks the first foray into providing an on-site foodservice program. “I would never describe our relationship as an outsourced relationship,” Sirhal says. “That’s not what this is about. It’s a collaboration.” While the menu planning is still in progress, Sirhal’s team, which includes CIA graduates, plans to focus on preparing fresh, sustainable ingredients at a variety of stations. “I think it’s going to be fun, we’re going to be able to do a lot more experimentation and push the envelope a little bit,” he says. 

More From FoodService Director

Managing Your Business
management team

Last week’s NACUFS National Conference proved to be a treasure trove of management and staffing takeaways. Here are a few we noted at the annual event , held this year in Providence, R.I.

1. Make it scalable

When explaining something new to staff, instead of asking, “You got it?” or “You with me?” have employees rate how well they understand the new material on a scale of 1 to 10, said Ron Paul, a senior consulting partner for Partners in Leadership, during a session on building accountability in the workplace. People are likely to say yes even when they don’t fully grasp what you’...

Ideas and Innovation
song break

Once per month in a daily huddle, we dedicate a few minutes for the staff to sing a short song. The staff has responded so positively to this. They now bring costumes and other props. It's a few short minutes, but the payoff has been tremendous.

Photo courtesy of iStock

Ideas and Innovation
plastic straws

An item about the size of a pencil has become the latest target in foodservice operators’ sustainability plans. Though small, plastic straws are said to have a large impact on the environment, with Americans using approximately 500 million straws each day, according to a release from Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium, which temporarily ditched plastic straws as part of an Earth Day promotion this year.

In recent months, a growing number of eateries and cities across the United States have scrapped plastic straws. In July, Seattle enacted a ban on plastic straws and utensils, requiring...

Industry News & Opinion

Medford High School in Medford, Mass., is looking to add an orchard to its campus, Wicked Local reports.

The idea for the orchard was brought forth by students looking to help combat food insecurity. They are working with the school’s nutritionist to make the orchard a reality.

If planted, the orchard would be located inside the school’s courtyard and would grow fruits such as apples, paw paws, blueberries, peaches and plums. It would also include an outdoor classroom space.

The school committee signed off on the project last year; however, some administrators are...

FSD Resources

Code for Asynchronous jQuery Munchkin Tracking Code