Operations

How to keep multiple dining venues up to date

Morrison Healthcare

Challenge

With more than 700 accounts that have retail areas, Morrison Healthcare needed to find a way to keep those units current with food trends and customer expectations.

morrison outtakes food

Solution

Refresh, a program that has enabled the contractor to renovate or update more than 150 units in 18 months.

How it's done

According to Larry Tansky, senior director of retail for Morrison, Refresh was conceived three years ago as a systematic way to gauge customer expectations and desires and then act on them.

“Our No. 1 priority is keeping our clients happy,” Tansky says, “and one of the best ways to do that is by investing in the business. Refresh is one way to do that.”

The process begins with a conversation with the client, followed by focus groups with up to 50 consumers. “We gather two groups of consumers—we call them guests—and talk with them about the retail program. We get heavy users and we try to get non-users [of our programs].”

With the heavy users, the conversation revolves around food quality, value and service. Tansky explains that the most important words in the discussion are “recommend” and “return:” What do these guests recommend to their friends, and what is most likely to keep them returning to the facility?

“With non-users we switch up the dialogue and probe at the reasons why they aren’t coming and some things we could do that would change that,” he notes. “We take the information from both groups and compile an action plan for our client. Then we work with our culinary group and our project management team and develop the process.”

Depending on the size of the unit and the complexity of the project, a Refresh can take as little as four weeks or as long as several months. The main goal, Tansky says, is to make the process as painless as possible. “We don’t want to disrupt the café,” he notes. “We work in the off hours, nights and weekends, or we’ll break down the process into smaller steps.”

One recent Refresh took place at Fresh Market, the café Morrison manages at Prentice Women’s Hospital in downtown Chicago. There, Tansky’s team replaced an underperforming Indian concept, Masala, with an Asian concept, Chef Jet, that customers told them would be more popular. At the same time, the company added a self-serve salad bar in the center of the servery—another change that came out of the focus group discussion.

An important aspect of Refresh is what Tansky refers to as a retail certification training program. “Not only is it the aspect of the refresh itself,” he says. “We need to make sure that the culinary and [operations team] are prepared because we’re upping our game. We have to change the mindset from serving to selling.”

Training is done in three steps. The first is a series of self-directed online classes. Next comes a number of WebEx classes run by a facilitator, which include homework assignments. Finally, the students are brought to a central location to present what they’ve learned. Tansky says that by the end of October he had put 140 employees through the retail certification training program.

When it comes to deciding what to change in a retail unit, Tansky often will look to other companies within Compass Group, Morrison’s parent, for suggestions. “We’re always looking for best practices among all the Compass segments,” he says. “We’ve learned a lot from B&I operations, as well as from Levy Restaurants. Having a company as diverse as Compass provides tremendous opportunities for us.

“Overall, we’ve had wonderful success with Refresh and we’ll continue to use it as an ongoing strategy,” Tansky adds. “Customization is becoming more and more important. Guests have so many more dining opportunities than ever before. For us, it’s all about talking to them and making sure that we’re delivering what we promised.”

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