Operations

In search of the foodservice sweet spot

When editor Jill Failla and I sat down to discuss ideas for this month’s cover story, data from FoodService Director’s sister company Technomic was the spark that lit the flame of conversation. She told me the most recent Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report had found that consumers are more willing to order and pay more for items they think are both healthy and tasteful. My questions: OK, what does that look like in practice? How does it factor into operators’ decision-making processes? And what the heck do we call that phenomenon?

dancing fruit happy

After tossing around some ideas, we had it: the sweet spot. We’re hardly talking about indulgent desserts here; the sweet spot describes something that works just right—something everyone can get on board with. Some items where FSDs have found success include vegetarian versions of international dishes, blended burgers and anything involving antibiotic-free chicken. (They’re probably guidelines I should better follow in my own eating, if we’re being honest.)

The sweet spot is a concept, really, that operators are trying to find in all aspects of their jobs every day, and something FoodService Director aims to help them hit. Operators who are prepping to-go meals are trying to balance the desire to give their diners a new option with the strain on their labor force and budgets. Supervisors are re-evaluating their performance reviews to find the sweet spot between micromanagement and giving adequate feedback.

It’s also something we celebrated at February’s MenuDirections conference in Charlotte, N.C. Betti Wiggins, winner of this year’s FoodService DirectorFSD of the Year award, serves nearly 85,000 meals a day as executive director of foodservices for Detroit Public Schools Community District. She’s had to find the sweet spot between what her diverse student body will eat and her desire to increase local sourcing and school gardening initiatives. By establishing DPS as the meal provider for more than 30 nearby charter and private schools, Wiggins added a revenue stream that allows her department to fund new initiatives like an urban agricultural project. (Read more about this year’s MenuDirections at foodservicedirector.com)

The struggles behind finding that balance are as varied as the employees in an operation, and no one solution will work for every scenario. But conversation and sharing ideas—what works and what doesn’t—are the first steps to success. It’s a mantra Wiggins heartily shares. “Imitation is the highest form of flattery,” she told FoodService Director in 2016. “Take it, run with it, make it big, make it explode.”

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